Brussels: Chocolate Hangover
We decided to spend the weekend in Brussels, Belgium which is known as the land of blonde beer, chocolate, waffles and fries. We drove for about two hours early Saturday morning to Brussels, passing through rolling hills and vast fields and farmlands into the capital city, where we immediately noticed huge parks with lakes, people exercising and lounging outside despite the cold weather and a plethora of waffle food trucks.
We started the day by heading to the most famous site in town, the Grand Place, a square filled with 15th to 17th century buildings that lean on one another and slightly forward at an angle. The square includes city hall, several chocolate shops, horse drawn carriages and a flux of tourists.
We decided to keep our itinerary open, so we wandered around town without a map. We first stopped at Grand Sablon, a central Brussels square surrounded on all sides by chocolate shops. We strategically absorbed delicious pea soup and sandwiches before embarking on the chocolate overload. We sampled chocolates of all kinds at four different shops, skipping the famous but widely available Godiva, and opting for the brands we couldn't find anywhere else. We had a jolly time tasting freshly made dark, milk, white, ganache, pralines, truffles and infused chocolates while we walked around town, but we both felt a chocolate hangover later on.
With chocolates in hand, we wandered around Brussels for several hours - ducking into churches to admire stained glass windows and also to momentarily escape the cold.
Brussels boasts a picturesque juxtaposition of gothic and modern architecture. We took time to find beauty in the grittier side of Brussels, like the graffiti sketched skatepark and train tracks.
We snuck into a gigantic barricaded palace under construction to squeeze in a bit of climbing.
After a recharging nap and sauna at our hotel, we hunted down healthy Indonesian food for dinner and then headed to a famous Lambic beer hall to enjoy local Belgian blonde ale. After taking in the night time scene, we ended the evening with a few nightcap chocolates.
We started the next day with a boxing session at the spartan gym at our hotel, and followed up the tough workout with some Belgian waffles. Despite all of the choices for toppings - chocolate, whipped cream, nutella, etc. - the best choice was the simple plain waffle, fresh off the waffle iron. We next ventured to Place Jourdan to find the famous frites at Maison Antoine. We split a small paper cone filled with crispy frites and a side of homemade andalouse sauce. We picked up picnic items from the local market for the rest of the day and walked around two urban parks. Belgians know how to do parks right. The green spaces and tudor houses closely resembled Shaker Heights, Ohio. Despite the cold, there were tons of youths outside playing soccer, rollerblading, riding bikes, skateboarding and just enjoying the winter sun.
With London awaiting us, we toted our picnic to the train station. Over two days in London, we walked along the Thames to Borough Market for vegan Middle Eastern food, checked out St. Pauls cathedral, and sampled Indian Curry on the famous Brick Lane.
We had one sunny day and one rainy day in London, which is about the best you can hope for this time of year. We headed back to Brussels on the Eurostar Tuesday evening and then back to Lux for the rest of the week.
It's time for a weekend off so we can gear up for several arduous trips in the coming weeks.
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