Thursday, April 19, 2012

Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, & Antwerp

A few weeks ago we found ourselves with a sudden open weekend where Jon wasn't on call. We knew we wanted to go out of the country since we wouldn't be leaving Italy until June, and looking at our list of places to visit we found reasonable rates for flights and hotels in Brussels.

There were five main things we were very excited about: mussels, beer, waffles, chocolate, and fries. What better way to experience a different culture than to dive right into the food? Jon was in heaven with all of the strong Belgium beers at his disposal, and I was extremely happy that every meal consisted of a big pot of mussels. Waffle stands were around every corner, and we decided that although there were a number of ways a Belgium waffle can be spruced up (chocolate, nutella, whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, kiwi, or all of the above combined) we thoroughly enjoyed just the plain version which had some caramelized sugar on it, providing a welcomed light crunchiness.

We spent Friday walking around the main area of Brussels. We went to the Grand Place, a beautiful central market square where you'll find most people admiring the extraordinary buildings or sitting on one of the many terraces drinking a beer or enjoying a waffle. We also saw "Manneken Pis" which is a famous, small bronze fountain sculpture of a naked little boy from 1618 urinating into a fountain.

On Saturday we took the train to Bruges, a very popular destination that looks and feels like it's suspended in the medieval time period. Horse drawn carriages, whitewashed cottages, and smooth canals speckle the city, as well as small restaurants and shops to lure tourists in. We climbed the 366 steps of the belfry, which is a medieval bell tower in the historical center and had gorgeous views of Bruges. We also walked through the begijnhof, which are small cottages established in the 13th century as homes for a Catholic order of single and windowed women. Now they are homes to Benedictine nuns.

Climbing the belfry.

At the top!


From Bruges we took the train to Ghent and enjoyed the old time buildings. We also climbed the belfry in Ghent and once again were able to see beautiful views of the city and of the cathedral. We stopped at the Waffle Factory where the first waffles were made and enjoyed a couple of our own.

We returned to Brussels for dinner and later went to a bar, where we heard people singing along to typical American party songs. Something seemed to happen after midnight where people started to dance on the tables (including a guy wearing bunny ears and a pink inner tube). Naturally, Jon and I had to join in and dance to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" since we were the only ones still on the ground. Good times.
At the bar... on the table...
Antwerp was on our agenda for Sunday. The weather wasn't too cooperative, but we spent the time walking around, checking out the cathedral, the water, and the old buildings in the historic center. We had to catch our plane so a quick fry stop later (where I was yelled at by the mean Dutch fry lady for spilling ketchup on the counter) and a train ride, and we were back in Brussels.

More of the station.

A pretty cool train station!

While we enjoyed our time in Belgium, I think it's the first time in our travels where we feel like we saw what we needed to see and don't have a strong urge to return. Despite this, Brussels provided us with fun experiences, delicious food, and an insight to another culture that we appreciated and will always remember!

And now for our Italian:

Il weekend scorso siamo andati in Belgio. Abbiamo volato per andare a Bruxelles e siamo stati per due notti e tre giorni. Ci e' piaciuto il cibo! Pero', Jon ha scritto del cibo quindi scrivero' delle altre cose. Sabato, siamo andati a Bruges e a Gand. Ho pensato che queste citta' avevano piu' charm di Bruxelles. Loro erano molto belle con cottages, fiumi, carri tirati da cavalli, e strade di ciottoli. Quella notte siamo andati un bar e tutta la gente erano a ballare sulle tavole! Un ragazzo era vestito con ciambella per il mare rosa! Naturalmente anche abbiamo ballato sulla tavola, ma solo perche' abbiamo bevuto molte birre e non ci conoseva nessuno! Il prossimo giorno siamo andati a Antwerp e abbiamo camminato intorno la citta'. Non siamo rimasti a lungo perche' abbiamo dovuto prendere il nostro volo. Siamo andati a Bruxelles e abbiamo mangiato il pranzo. Anche abbiamo comprato cioccolato da portare a casa. Insomma, ci siamo divertiti e ci sono piaciuti i posti che abbiamo visitato. 

Il weekend scorso, siamo andati in Belgio. Abbiamo volato e dormito a Bruxelles e siamo andati a Bruges, Gand, e Antwerp con il treno. In tutte le citta', abbiamo mangiato cinque cose- cozze, cioccolato, patate fritte, 'waffles' e birra - tutte le cose per cui il Belgio e' famoso. Abbiamo mangiato le cozze ogni pranzo e cena, due 'waffles' a giorno, birre invece di acqua, e cioccolato e patate fritte per un spuntino. Loro erano le migliori che abbiamo mai mangiato. Le cozze e le patate erano deliziose. La cioccolata e le 'waffles' erano dolci e lisci. Le birre erano forti e gustose. Noi eravamo troppi pieni tutto il tempo.


  1. The food looks so yummy! When you said that there are waffle stands on every corner, I was thinking about all the hot dog stands in NYC! (Every city has something special and unique about it!) It would be really cool to eat waffles whenever you want!! Climbing up 366 steps in the bell tower reminded me of when we climbed all those steps in the St. Peters Basilica in Rome! (Meet me at the Clock Tower!) (HaHa!!) The pictures of the buildings are beautiful! And it sounds like you guys had a great time at the bar dancing on the tables! (There is no way that I can do that!) That wasn't very nice of the dutch lady to yell at you on your last day there! By the way, love your Italian! I don't understand a word of it, but I love it!! Another adventure in another country! Very exciting! Looking forward to your next trip and your next blog!!

  2. Those waffles look freaking fantastic. So awesome you are seeing so much of Europe. Also very impressed with the Italian paragraphs!

  3. We were in Belgium just 5 days after you! We stayed in Antwerp (pretty train station, I agree!) and saw Brussels and Bruges. Andrei and his mom and grandmother went to Ghent while I had to take the kids back to Brussels to see the largest dinosaur exhibit in Europe. I also feel as you did, that it was nice but I don't really feel like I need to go back. I gained 3 lbs in 5 days eating stupid fries and drinking awesome beer. Leffe brun is great. I didn't have enough waffles. The weather made me appreciate Italy more. I thought Brussels was interesting because I heard so many people speaking excellent English to each other, but all with accents. I suppose it was meetings of the Flemish and French people and that's the language they have in common? Bruges made me want to watch the movie "In Bruges" again. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Will make you see the Belfry tower in a whole new light. Thanks for the post!