Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brussels, Belgium

One might ask why I opened this post with food & beer (and one may not, but I'll tell you anyway). It's because I do believe that's all we did our entire trip to Belgium. Eat & drink. Burgers bigger than my head, velvety chocolate, locally made beer, authentic Belgian waffles, ice cream, you name it and we probably consumed it. And it was all absolutely delicious!

This picture is of an authentic Belgian waffle, complete with strawberries, bananas, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Absolutely decadent! It was more like eating dessert than breakfast and kept me full for an entire EIGHT hours. Yes, I said EIGHT hours. Which means that I really dont want to know how many calories were in that one dish. Even if I knew, I think it would still have been worth it. It was that good and I ate every bite.

Now on to the rest of the trip....

My first impression of Brussels was twofold: First- complete disbelief that the Belgians are worse drivers than the Germans and Second- Wow, what a huge city! As you all know by now (or maybe not), Im from a really small town. The largest city in my state only has around 130,000 people. So I was very impressed with the big city feel of Brussels.

Our hotel- Hotel a la Grande Cloche was wonderful! It was centrally located, about 5 mins from the city central. The front desk clerk was very friendly & helpful & spoke English very well. The room was clean & spacious enough, as was the private bathroom. (worth the extra euro) They didnt have an A/C, but they did have a fan, & with the window open, it was enough.

Besides the food, my favorite part of the city was the central square, The Grand Market. The buildings there date back to the 1600s & are breathtaking. Another favorite was all of the chocolate stores. They were everywhere! Most places had samples and a wide selection of chocolates to choose from. There were also plenty of shops to browse, from knockoffs to the high end stuff.

The Belgians themselves were very friendly & most of them spoke English very well, so we had no trouble getting around. Even though it is tourist season over here, the city center wasnt too crowded and we didnt have to wait in any lines.

As for attractions, St. Michael's church is a must-see. It was truly awe-inspiring. The outside is huge & impressive, while the inside is just gorgeous. Very intricate, clean & elegant with a dash or decadence thrown in. They have a variety of very old artwork & sculptures on display as well. While the main part of the church is definitely worth seeing, the crypt isnt, so dont waste the 1 euro to check it out. It's small & plain, with hardly anything at all to see. The Grand Palace was beautiful. We didnt get there early enough to take the tour, so we settled for watching the changing of the guards. The Atomium is a short drive away from the city center. It is a large, atom looking structure looming over the city. It was built for the 1958 World's Fair. We didnt go it, we just drove right up to it and took tons of photos.

Our only dislikes:
*Traffic was an absolute nightmare and lengthened our time there are home by at least an hour each way.
*There are few or no street signs and its very difficult to see the ones that are there. Thus, getting lost or taking a wrong turn is extremely easy.
*There are very few gas stations in Belgium that are right on the autobahn, so plan accordingly. Luckily we were prepared!

Overall, we loved Belgium and are looking forward to going back!


Ashley said...

That food looked amazing! And the Belgium Waffles alone made me want to book a trip to Belgium!!

ALW said...

Beautiful!!! All the food looks delicious! I can't wait to visit there!

Becca Runs Sometimes said...

Yummy! I am going to have to figure out how to make myself one of those "authentic" Belgium waffles. Great pics.

Jen said...

Looks wonderful! My husband's number one pick for his next assignment is working for NATO in Brussels.