This weekend was fantastic! Friday morning I boarded a plane in Dublin City to visit Brussels in Belgium. Brussels was an amazing city and it’s quite easy to get around on foot if one has the patience. The center of town is a dense, bustling place packed with incredible architecture, which is much of what I was after seeing. I also had a good time sampling some of the region’s plentiful varieties of beer.
Of course, when people talk about Belgium there are a couple of things that instantly come to mind: chocolate and waffles. Something I wasn’t aware of is that french fries also have a history in Belgium. The french fries were quite good, but the chocolate and waffles were the main focus in the food spectrum. I had a tour, with my traveling companions, of the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. It was interesting to learn how chocolate is molded by the chocolatiers, but the best part was chatting with the chocolatier, an older woman who was incredibly sweet and funny. She must have enjoyed chatting with us because she gave us a fair number of special samples after the rest of the audience had left; the samples were of the specially filled chocolates called “pralines”. Incredible. We did not find a waffle museum or receive any free samples, but we enjoyed them nonetheless. The waffles were noticeably different from the waffles I make at home in that they were sweeter, and not just because I got mine topped with nutella and bananas!
That night we went to a small back-alley street that was lined with bars. One of the establishments was the Delirium Pub, so named for the house beers served there. Across the way was an absinthe bar, which we decided was worth sampling while in Brussels. It was quite strong and tasted of liquorice. The bartender, a gruff man, showed us how to properly drink a shotglass worth of absinthe. First, dunk a sugar cube in the liquor, then place it on a flat surface over the glass and light it on fire letting the melting sugar drip into the liquor. Finally, after a few moments, blow out the flame, drop the cube into the liquor and enjoy. Quite an experience and one that I won’t likely forget.
On Saturday I decided to go for a walk. I walked across the city from the south aiming for the landmark Atomium just outside the city to the north. It was a fantastic walk, I got lost and found myself at a large domed building in the north of the city. It appeared to be a government building similar to the Capital Building in Washington, DC, but I could not read the signs and did not stop to ask. Instead, I turned and headed for Atomium. This brought me past an old looking cathedral on the edge of Brussels (or so it seemed) past which I crossed a bridge and followed a street to what seemed to me to be a suburb of Brussels. From there I could see an enormous stone Cathedral that looked magnificent from a distance, I stopped by to look inside later. It was extremely ornate, but I did not enter for there was a service in progress. On my way to Atomium I stopped to have a puff pastry at a small bakery. It was filled with a wonderful vanilla cream, topped with chocolate, warm, flaky, and the perfect treat for a long walk. As I got closer to Atomium I passed the largest outdoor streetmarket I’d ever seen. It was blocks and blocks in length, I walked for 20 minutes and neither found the start nor the end of it, I seemed to have just passed through a part of it. A few blocks away I heard a band playing music, but I had already been distracted and wanted to make sure I would be back to my hotel to meet my companions by dark. Finally, I reached the enormous park where Atomium sits. Atomium was a sight to behold; giant silver metallic balls suspended over the science center for which it is the symbol. I was interested in the exhibits, but after so much walking I was quite happy to sit among the gently rolling hills and shady trees of the park. Then I walked back, had dinner, and went straight to sleep. Although I was only there for a short time, I came to appreciate Brussels, I would encourage others to go and seize any opportunity to return.
All for now,