Thursday, October 7, 2010

Brussels and Bruges

Waffles, frites (french fries), chocolate, mussels, and beer!  What more could one want?  My friends and I spent the last weekend in Brussels and Bruges in Belgium.  Brussels is the capital of the European Union.  The city is decorated with a lot of Gothic architecture that stands alongside buildings from other eras and skyscrapers.  It was kind of tacky, but I liked it!  However, as much as I loved the city, the local people from the city left something to be desired.  But as long as one doesn't talk to the locals, a person can have an excellent time alongside the other tourists in Belgium!

We flew in on Friday using the budget airline, Ryanair.  If you ever want to travel within Europe, you have to check out Ryanair.  Sometimes there are really good deals!  We fairly easily found our hostel before check in time, but that was ok because we could leave our stuff (minus important things like money, credit cards, and passport) in the luggage room which was kept locked.  If someone really wanted to steal my $5 t-shirts and toothbrush, I guess they can have it.  We walked around Brussels for a little, with no destination in mind because we didn't know much about Brussels flying in.  We found this cool shopping area and went inside the chocolate store where we saw a man with a Purdue hat on.  So we asked him if he was from Indiana and he said he was the retired department head of Biochemistry at Purdue, Dr. Karl Brandt.  It is such a small world!  I found it interesting that I should meet him in Brussels, Belgium instead of at Purdue, which seems much more likely! 

After this chance encounter we went to our actual hostel (the first one was just where we were supposed to pay for the one we were staying in).  We had a few problems in the beginning, but the owner of the hostel handled the situation as best as he could and we all ended up with a small discount!  Our hostel was maybe a minute walk from Grand Place.  It was a great location. 

We decided to go to Bruges because we found a way to get there for only 10 euro per person round trip and a lot of people recommended it.  It was so beautiful!  It looked like it was from a fairy tale.  There were swans, cobblestone streets, canals, and horse drawn carriages.  We had all of our luggage (aka backpacks loaded with chocolate) to carry around because we had checked out the night before from the hostel.  Our backs were quite sore by the end of the day, but the trip was well worth it.

To let everyone know who the people I've been travelling with, I'll give you a little bio about them.  Heather, Jessica, and Nancy are all from the UC system in California.  I met them through Megan, the girl from Purdue, who is the roommate of Jessica.  They are all the type of people that will walk around all day with 20 pounds on their back and keep going till the end of the day!  It is nice to have Heather around because she is a human navigator and is pretty good at finding her way around unfamiliar places.  Jessica is nice to travel with because she doesn't take crap from anyone, even the Bruges restaurant owner who threw water on her!  Nancy is very good at Spanish, which will be helpful in Barcelona!  Megan is just really smart about everything, so she's good to have as a travel buddy as well.  Vanessa is a German exchange student I met at UCD, who is also Megan's roommate.  She was with us the first day in Brussels and then took the train to her home in Germany.  I'm sure there's so much more I could write about this trip, but I'm all typed out right now and can't think of anything else at the moment.  I might add other things about this trip as they come to me :)

My first true Belgian Waffle!  It was delicious, but I had to be rejected by the waffle nazi 3 times before I got one!  She had all these waffles set in the window and had the appearnace of being open in the middle of the day all three times.  But, the fourth time is the charm!

Me (left), Nancy, Jessica, Vanessa, Megan, and Heather (right) pose at Grand Place.

So, I stole these first pictures from Megan, so these first pictures are a little scattered. This one is in Bruge when we first arrived.

Us at one of the many fountains with water suitable for drinking, according to the plaques. The only free water in town!

One of many doylee stores in Brussels and Bruges.  I really liked the parasols.

All our luggage on the ground while we give our backs a break from carrying them all day.  Each one contains at least 5 pounds of chocolate from Brussels!

Us posing for a picture at the cloth hall near the Belfry tower in the city centre of Bruges

Megan (left) and Jessica(right) at the restaraunt we stopped at one night in Brussels.  This was a very lively place at night.

One of the many horse drawn carriages in Bruges.  It sounded so cool to listen to the horses' hooves on the cobblestone streets.

Another horse in Bruges

Heather (left), me, and Nancy (right) at the same restaurant as before in Brussels.

Nancy (left), Jessica, Heather, me, and Megan (right) on a bridge crossing the canal in Bruges after a boat tour of the city.

Taking a break outside under really cool umbrellas

Me at the old hospital of Bruge turned museum.  I think the hospital is from the 1600's

Near the canal in Bruges.  Me (left), Jessica, Heather, Megan, and Nancy (right)

Us posing in the city centre in Brussels.  It's called Grand Place and it was grand indeed. 

The view out of our hostel room's window.  The tall tower in the backround is in Grand Place, so we were in a great location!

In Brussels, even the dogs act as street performers.

A narrow alleyway in Brussels.  These were all over.

I think this was the town hall of Brussels. In any event it was in Grand Place.

I wanted to take a picture with this guy.  I'm not sure who he was because the plaque was in French!

One of many chocolate stores open in Brussels.  Some were open as late as 11:00 pm, maybe later (but we didn't stay up that late to find out)

I can't remember what this was called, but there were lots of shops in here.  It was kind of like a shopping mall I guess.  It was so pretty and the architecture was very over the top, like in the rest of the city.

The Grand Place at night

Mannekin Pis.  They change his outfit every day.  I wasn't too thrilled, but he seems to be a celebrity in Bruge.  You'll find all kinds of souveniers with him and finding a postcard without him is quite the challenge.

Me posing with the fountain.  Some guys (pretty drunk), when we were there the night before, dropped their pants and decided to pee alongside the Mannekin pis.  We left as soon as we figured out what was going on. 

This didn't have anything with it telling about it, but it looked cool.

The flea market we visited.  I tried to buy some old currency from the pre euro days, but the man wanted way too much for pretty worthless currency and was not coming down on his price.  It's hard to bargain when you don't know the language.

I think this was a palace at one point.  In any event, it was ridiculously large and over the top, like much of the other architecture in Brussels.

A monument to soldiers

A pretty cool fountain.  It was cooler in person.

One of the many Catholic churches in Brussels

The Palais Royal.  I had to take this picture through the Iron gates in from of the building.

A cool clock outside of the central train station.

A waffle truck.  Like and ice cream truck, only better!

The same dog as before posing for some money.

St. Catherine's Cathedral.

The organ inside St. Catherine's Cathedral

The atomium.  You can actually go inside of it, but we couldn't do everything, so I just took a picture from the best view in town!  The top of a parking garage!  haha.  It's from a 1950's world's fair.  It is the structure of Iron, maginfied a lot.

Another view from the top of the parking garage.  That tall tower, is in Grand Place.

This store was full of glasses, microscopes, telescopes, and cuckoo clocks.  The most obvious combination!

My picture at Grand Place at night.

I can't remember what that thing on the left was called, but it was delicious!  It had corn, cheese?, and pork in it.  We ate at this restaurant on what we called Greek street because it was lined with a dozen Greek restaurants.

One of the two ways we've seen Bruges spelled.  I was so confused and still am about that.  This is at the train station.

Pretty scenery in Bruges

These streets in Bruges looked like something out of Disney movie!

This was on top of the entrance to one of the 27 (I think) Catholic churches in Bruges.  There is 1 Protestant church here.

I think this is a trough for the horses because it was near where the horses stopped to rest and pick up a new passenger.

Bruges calls itself the city of swans.  They were so pretty.

We were taking a break from carrying our backpacks here, so we decided to take pictures.

I think this picture was on the postcards in Bruges!

In a cute park on the edge of Bruges

Flowers in front of a house in Bruges

Sometimes, you just want a burger and fries!  lol.  At least the fries (or frites as they call them) are native to Belgium.

I think this is St. Maria's Cathedral in Bruges

The massive organ in the cathedral

I liked the windows best.

I just thought these must have taken such a long time to make!

I love stained glass windows!

nancy (left), Heather, Megan and jessica (front) pose for a picture before the start of our canal tour in Bruges.

The movie with Colin Ferral, "In Bruges," was filmed in this building.  I've never seen the movie, but I have seen the shooting location. lol

Picture of the swans from our canal tour

From the canal tour

This is Flemish architecture. 

This place had the greatest selection of beer I've ever seen!  Belgium is known for its beer too, I guess

This is supposed to be art that they change every year to decorate the city centre of Bruges

Mussels are another food that Belgium is known for.  I passed, but Heather and Nancy split some.

Me in the Cloth Hall, with the Belfry in the backround (in Bruges)

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