Last week I FINALLY took my highly anitcipated trip to Brussels, Belgium. This trip was less about traveling to Brussels and more about meeting up with my best friend Zoe!! And oh was my trip was sooooooo much fun!!
True to Meghan fashion I got lost right out the gate…this was not my first time travelling to a destination alone, but it was the first trip I arranged for myself solely by myself. Thus the confusion.
Funny story: I got off the train with my phone at about 15% battery. My initial thought was to pop a squat and charge it somewhere, but instead I decided I could definitely make it to my destination before the battery drained. So I got on Airbnb and mapped to my studio. I took public transportation (you know the cool European way) and got off with a 5 minute walk to the apartment. The streets in Europe always confuse me on a GPS because of the slight veers to the left and right. I was also using google map directions (not the app) so instead of it telling me to turn right or left it was giving me directional terms (west, east etc.). One block in and I was lost, it was pouring rain, and my phone died…Now what…I was alone, no phone, lost in a foreign country, and soaking wet.
Luckily I got lost right near a cafe with outlets! So I sat down to charge my phone and figure out where I was going. My phone turned on and as I was trying to map my route and understand my location I realized, the phone has taken me to a different address altogether! How did this happen?! I regrouped and started over…and 20 minutes later I finally made it to my destination! YAY!
I was supposed to beat Zoe to the apartment by almost 2 hours…and I arrived only 5 minutes before her! (To be fair my trains were both delayed, closing the gap by about an hour already)
We arrived with a half day still ahead of us and decided to go out exploring. As I mentioned above, this trip was more about visiting with each other than going to Brussels. Therefore we did not have much planned ahead. We knew we would go see the sights, but were basically googling (top things to see/do in Brussels) as we went.
Our first search brought us to the Parc du Cinquantenaire…beautiful (pictured below). It is an amazing public park with a semi-circle archway building (built to commemorate Belgian independence). While the architecture was amazing, it was the fall colors and perfectly manecured scenery that won me over!
The rain that day only began pouring harder. So we decided to forgo any more sightseeing (aka walking around) that afternoon and dove into to a few local bars to grab some beers. The first bar we found was a bright, fun place…where they have written “save water, drink champagne”. I am not sure about the champagne part, but Europeans truly believe in saving water for alcohol (beer at least) with those prices! We enjoyed an always favorite Stella Artois followed by a fun Rosé Hoegaarden (which I highly recommend, Delicious!).
Every girl knows that a reunion trip with a bestie means late nights and liquor flowing…well not for us the first night. We were exhausted and decided to Yelp some delicious food. Not knowing anything about Brussels (yes we should’ve done better research, you live and you learn) we discovered a stuffed meatball place that people raved about in the comments. For dinner we headed to Balls & Glory (best name for a restaurant!). We enjoyed a HUGE meal that was amazing…this coming from a crazy lover of meatballs though.
That little stick figure was the Women’s Bathroom symbol…I took a picture because why is she winking at me?! I loved it and was equally distrubed by it…thoughts?
After a great night’s sleep we woke up ready to take on Brussels. The first day was spent mostly wandering. We always had a destination set but between the two of us, we don’t have the best navigational skills. We ended up at Paul for breakfast, a chain bakery with delicious pastries. I loved this giant coffee cup, reminding me that the key to a successful vacation COFFEEE!! After a sweet & tart breakast we headed toward the Grand Place.As stated, with our bad navigation only finding us in the general direction of the Grand Place we happened upon this AMAZING Cathedral (which is a top site to see so yay us for finding it!). The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. The architeture and structure were beautiful.
Mostly traveling with my boyfriend (a religious studies scholar) I often find myself touring churches, temples, mosques etc. In every cathedral/church we enter I almost always find myself mesmorized by two things: the organ, and the room with the holy water. I just find such a beauty in both items. This organ was on a whole other level and I couldn’t stop capturing photos. This cathedral had an interesting interactional level with the Holy Water room. They had a smaller bowl of water outside the chamber for visitors to dip their hands into (claiming you to be Baptized after).After touring the Cathedral and many pictures taken we eventually made our way to The Grand Place. During weekends this square houses a trade market, but on a wednesday is a sight of gold adorned buildings/museums to gawk at. In person you truly can appreciate the beauty of the structures, but because of Christmas Time set-up most of our pictures/views were obstructed by construction.
The area around the Grand Place leans on the touristy side. I am all fine with doing tourist “things” while visiting a new place, but try to steer away from “tourist traps”. You know things/places that are inauthentic and just trying to make a dolla’. While in the square we came upon a Beer Museum…I know intrigued right? Well this “museum” is merely a (barely) 2 room area displaying traditional brewing techniques/tools vs. modern brewery/equipment. None the less the place was fun, informative, and we got to sit and enjoy a holiday brew beer amongst a traditional brew house setting.
Drinking Beer Sitting on a Barrel!
Once finished with our beers we decided to head to the next destination…the Atomium. In my opinion, basically the Eiffel Tower of Brussels. The immense structure was built of the same purpose, for the World’s Fair in Brussels. The original structure was let go to ruin (as was the Eiffel Tower) and years later restored to it’s original grandeur. Now being one of the major tourist attractions of the city! We did not go up into the structure that houses a museum of it’s own history as well as a restaurant at the top!
After a great photo session we decided to head to a new destination. Now I let Zoe lead on this one and I am not even sure what exactly we were heading to…I think it was the current living quarters for a royal family? (like a palace but not THE palace). Anyway I think you can tell where I am going with this…Yup we got lost. I ain’t even mad though, we stumbled upon the most beautiful scenery with this park…
We eventually gave up on our quest and headed on home. On our way back we realized we should be trying Belgian food, you know things the area is known for. What better excuse for a waffle covered in goodies!!! It was as delicious as it looks….
Brussels also housed some fun street art, but none quite as interesting as the opera house balcony sculptures lining the tunnel of this metro stop. It was an intersting and fun way to decorate a normally dank/dark place.
That night we went to La Boussole and enjoyed some traditional Brussel’s Mussels. They were amazing and yes you need to get some when there! After dinner we headed to an interesting bar we read about online. The Delirium Cafe, a bar housing 2,000+ beer choices and surrounded by other specialty bars (tequila, rum, absinthe etc.). We again found ourselves in a “touristy” part of town with The Delirium and all it’s “sister” bars set down a small alley way. The first bar we went into (we thought was the beer hub) housed a HUGE tequila/mezcal bar, but we opted for Beer, since we thought we were in Delirium. After our first drink we decided to try next door, and upon entering we realized THIS was Delirium…the place we had been in was the tequila bar.
Delirium had 3 stories, each with a different genre of beer selections (overwhelming for a non-beer enthusiast). We wanted to stay and test it out, but by this time the place was packed and if you know one thing about Europeans it’s that they don’t always love a great antiperspirant…so we headed across the alley. Where we found ourselves in an absinthe bar. So, when in Rome, I tried an absinthe drink and yes it’s disgusting…unless you happen to love black licorice (which ew why?). We rounded up the night by returning to our first spot and enjoying a cider before heading home.
As I have stated before, we should have planned our trip a little better because our third day there (also our last full day) was Armistice Day (aka Veteran’s Day)…so everything was closed. And I mean almost everything!
As we searched for a place open to eat breakfast (ended up going to Paul again) we enjoyed a ceremony for veterans and soldiers happening around this city circle. Fun fact: Brussels is full of little street circles with a statues/monuments in the center…such a beautiful decoration for what could be a boring intersection! Getting to witness the “parade” and celebration was fun!We knew nothing was going to be open and decided to head to The Palace. We couldn’t go tour the inside, but at least we could see the grand structure! To get there we cut through another amazing park. Takeaway from Brussels: amazing parks, grounds-keeping, and landscaping! Beautiful in the Fall!
As we approached The Palace we heard a KaBOOOM! In honor of Armistice Day, they kept setting off a canon. It was terrifying to us, flinching at every Boom; but normal to everyone around, who seemed to not even notice.
After the palace we decided to just wander around. Which was great because we eventually came upon this amazing view of the city scape! Along with other intersting monuments and architectural details!
I found this clock so interesting. Resting atop an archway over the street. Reminding me of a small world or the Welcome to Duloc scene in Shrek…I almost got run over standing in the middle of the street trying to get a picture!
Although it poured our first day there, this day was the coldest. We eventually happened upon a coffee shop and immediately ducked in to warm up. What’s the best way to get warm, coffe and alcohol. We “enjoyed” an espresso with a shot of Disarono…never again, an overly sweet burning is the best way to describe the sensation of that drink running down my throat.
We read online that Brussels is also known for amazing French Fries and decided to try some from a fun little snack place we ran into. They were AMAZINGLY delicious, but a little stinky. My hands smelled for hours even after multiple washings. I also accidently leaned into my sauce and could not remove the smell from my coat (yes the aroma was disgusting all day).
Coming home from the Atomium the day before I had noticed pin wheels lining some water way. So after eating our afternoon snack we set out to find this canal. We eventually found our way to the cutest sight of spinning wheels lining this water!
On our way back from the canal we realized we still had one thing to try: Belgian Chocolates…I mean how can you go to Belgium and not get some! Right near our metro stop was Frederic Blondeel. A cute little chocolate shop where they create their own product right above you in a glass room where you can see the process!
And the chocolates were AMAZING, so many different flavors…all so unique and delicious. My favorite: a caramel filled chocolate brushed with glitter…sparkles!! I ended up getting a small box to take home to Caleb, the perfect gift!
We ventured back to the apartment and got ready for our last night out. We decided to go to a historic bar: A La Mort Subite, a throwback to early 20th century Brussels. It was amaizng with the buzzing atmosphere and the most adorable older man as our waiter!
We enjoyed a hot wine with gouda…the hot wine less like mulled wine and more like a warmed sangria (delicious!). We enjoyed another glass of Rose before heading to a more upbeat atmosphere at Madame Moustache. I don’t have any pictures of Madame Moustache because it was too dark, but do recommend a visit. We happend upon this bar in search of another that was closed. The atmosphere is somewhere between a bar and club, with a DJ but still low-key vibe. The theme being that of a freak show/circus and housing travelers from all around. Everyone was just there to drink, have fun, and dance like no one was watching. Which always makes for an amazing time. We enjoyed some drinks, shots, and a little dancing before heading home!
Our last day in Brussels was spent shopping for a short period. Brussels has AMAZING shopping if you ask me…everything from high end to $6 sweaters are available. The stores stretch for what seems like eternity and every store has a great selection! (I loved their Pull & Bear, so different from the Bochum inventory) I highly recommend shopping when you’re in Brussels, you’ll find amazing items at great prices! Just don’t go on a weekend, it was sooooo crowded and overwhelming. Some stores even had lines outside (with no special sales happening) it just was that busy on a Saturday. After shopping we headed to the train station and sadly departed…
Boy was it a fun adventure with my bestie! What a great weekend full of adventure (aka lost wanering) and catching up!!! And for anyone who was concerned I made it home!
Where’s a place you’ve traveled with your Best Friend(s)? Let me know in the comments below.