Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flashback: Brussels for New Years

Brussels Grand Place Plaza - Look at all that gold!
The Atomium
Boyfriend has a very busy work schedule recently. He's been pushing it and learning a lot, trying to be a big contribution. So even though we normally try to get out of town for the holidays, he just couldn't get those gap days (in between the Christmas and New Years holiday) last season. It was way okay, however, because I'd just been travelling in Italy for a month and was ready to have a lovely Christmas in our new London home. We absolutely did. London is very nice at Christmas. Don't get me wrong - it's no New York. But, it's nice. The only unfortunate thing is the fact that public transportation is shut down. I feel bad for all those workers working on holidays in New York, but when you don't have your own vehicle in London - Christmas can be very boring. We had a party to go to but it would have cost about $75 to get there by Uber. Yeah, seriously. Instead we snuggled and binged Netflix. 
After our nice Christmas, we were itching to get out of town for New Years and decided on Brussels. I really didn't know much about this old city until we got off the overnight bus. The main pull for me was it's been on my life list for years to see one of my all time favorite paintings in person - The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David. Have you ever seen someone so excited to see a dead guy?
<---- Lookie!

Just about the biggest surprise when you arrive in Brussels is that everything is printed in French and Dutch! They fully use two languages - look, America, it can be done. Brussels has had a hard time with terrorism recently. I have to say I felt a bit of that in the air somehow. It's likely in my mind, but people were very different on the street and trains than they were in bars and restaurants. And there was a coldness (beyond the weather) to certain areas we walked through. It's a shame though because other areas were flush with flowers and color and chocolates and warm cider. Why all this hate...I'll never know. I think the best we can do is just build a screen of love and let the hate filter through. Click to continue...

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium

Brussels has delicious and exciting beer. Our first one was at a little African cafe near our hostel. What a great welcome. I wish I had written down the name. Such a nice little place with fun books to flip through and beers with neat labels. We spent the next few days just exploring the city. There's some amazing Gothic architecture. 

Including this incredible cathedral. The original structure existed as early as the 9th century with the major add-on's of the two towers coming to be in 1519. It just took 300 years to big deal

In addition to beer, the other major contribution Belgium has given the world: waffles. Oh, lord the waffles. Strawberries, speculoos, chocolate, PLAIN. The plain is so yum. I think I could eat real Belgian waffles every day and never be sad ever again.

PS: The "Belgian waffles" in America are absolute shit. Lies, so many lies.

Brewery Tour, Cantillon
Brewery, Brussels

We looked up breweries ahead of time knowing we'd be adding one into our schedule. Cantillon was without a doubt the winner. A bit off the beaten track maybe but absolutely worth the effort. The tour is included and very interesting. I'm usually of the position that if you've been through one brewery tour, you've been through them all. However, Cantillon is different -- mostly because they brew lambic. Over the last few years, I've been developing a palate for beer. I prefer it to wine and almost all liquors (besides my hunny bunny tequila). You have to come in to lambic with an open mind. It's interesting, bright. Lambic is the vinaigrette of the ranch world. And if you're going to try it out, Cantillon is the place. They also use a brewing technique based on open air. It's testy because it's based on the weather, but adds a real freshness to the beer. And it feels classic, traditional. THIS is the beer of our forefathers. Of all those ale drinking hooligans you imagine when you're watching period films. It's early Neolithic.

I've noticed Europeans are big light show fans. Americans do this at Christmas of course, but around here light shows are where it's at. Brussels was no exception. I don't know if these lights are year-long but I would guess they are. Every evening, the plaza turns into a dancing light parade. It's Gothic architecture meets modern technology at its finest. And really really fun to see. And you know what makes it even better?

<-- This awesome cheese melting beauty of a machine. These people who stand around swiping off consistently melting cheese and lathering it onto fresh bread: Gods among men. The cheese is raclette. Sadly, I can't find any business names on the internet for the people producing the cheese gold, much less the one I had. I feel I've failed you. However, the saving grace is that at any market in Brussels at any time of year, you will definitely see at least one stand rolling cheese wheels under heat lamps in a never ending procession of bliss. Do. Not. Miss. Your. Cheese. Opportunity. 
 The plaza by night and one of the many beer shops.

On our last day in the city, we went on an adventure to find the Atomium. Not like it's hard since you can see it from anywhere you're standing haha but we did take a tram to get there. The graffiti on the ride was awesome! I wish I'd been able to take better photos but it speeds by too fast when you're on the tram. I'm impressed by the street art in almost every city I visit. I love when cities foster the creativity and allocate areas or walls. It's beautiful how it's ever changing and builds on old works AND a free museum! I'm really glad the public gets to enjoy it. Overall the Atomium was pretty neat to visit. It makes it better in retrospect knowing it was built in the 1950's. I do wish we'd have had time and funds to go inside it. There's always next time!
I got another waffle from a street cart while I was there too so that was obviously the highlight. Not sure I'd recommend the trip out to it - unless you're keen on some badass selfies :)

I'd like to visit Brussels again in the summer when they fill the plaza with flowers. For now, I'm happy to rave about it to anyone who's discussing European cities. It always does seem to get ignored...but it's amazing! (I've just been to Amsterdam and I have to say I enjoyed Brussels more...alas, more on that later.)

xo tata for now