Belgium

Thanks to Eurostar, visiting Belgium from London is pretty convenient. I don’t really have a formed opinion of Belgians. I just know that they speak French, Flemish, and maybe German. I easily confuse them with the Dutch. Their flag looks a lot like the German flag. One thing I know for sure though… They’ve given the world a couple of reasons to have happy tummies.

10) Mussels

These are the original mussels from Brussels. Albeit, Van Damme was the muscles, and these mussels below are from a fancy restaurant (Park Restaurant) in Bruges. The mussels themselves were of a good size (the ones from Belfast are tiny compared to these), similar to the ones we have in the Philippines.  These were cooked in white wine sauce. Fairly simple, but I couldn’t stop eating them. I didn’t finish the whole lot though.

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9) Shopping for chocolates!

Belgian chocolates are divine. Both Bruges and Brussels have a nice selection of chocolate shops. There were the big named ones (like Godiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus), and the smaller shops which had lots of promotions on boxed chocolates. There were smaller specialty shops too, which had very interesting chocolate combinations.  Chocolate lovers will pee in their pants here.

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8) La Grand Place

I initially thought this was the Grand Palace. And when I found my way to the middle of the square, I thought to myself, which one these old buildings is the Grand Palace? The 600 year old Brussels City Hall stands proudly on the south side of the square, and there are lots of interesting guildhalls around it. Not too far from the Grand Place are the crowded, narrow alleyways with restaurants left and right.  La Grand Place is a Unesco World Heritage site, and is said to be the number one attraction in Brussels.

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7) Looking for and finding the Manneken Pis

The Manneken Pis, a small bronze statue of a little boy peeing, is quite popular Brussels. Because it’s somewhat iconic, we had to see it.  When we finally found it however, we were like.. Whaaaa-? That tiny little thing?! It was underwhelming. A couple of interesting legends about this pissing little boy: When the city was under siege, he urinated on a fuse thus saving the city; he was the son of a merchant who went missing and was found urinating in the gardens; my favourite one is he was a boy who put out a fire with his urine,  saving the king’s castle.

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6) Cruise around Bruges

Burges probably is in my top five of great European cities. It’s medieval and romantic. It has canals running through the small city, like Amsterdam, which makes it nice for cruising. This ‘Venice of the North’  did not disappoint.

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5) Climbing the Belfry in Bruges

I’m not athletic at all. While I don’t have a fear of heights (I love roller coasters), a narrow and steep staircase scares me a little. It was a certainly a challenge to climb the 366 steps, but I figured, if my 4 month pregnant friend could do it, then so could I! I’m glad we each brought a bottle of water, because we were parched! The view was quite nice at the top, but the climb was more memorable.

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4) Belgian Frites

I must say. There is something magical about these Belgian fries. I think the magic must be in how they cook it and the the timing of when one eats it too. Can’t let them rest for more than 5 minutes. Otherwise, they’d be soggy and limp. The ones we had in Brussels were crispy and not oily at all. No ketchup here! Just mayo!  I think we looked very happy wolfing down these fries that we had other tourists stop us, asking us where we got our fies!

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3) Waffles

Equally magical are the waffles! I read somewhere that Belgians scoff at tourists who top their waffles with fruits, chocolate syrup, nuts and God-knows what else. I had mine with whipped cream, and it was very nice! We ate our freshly made waffles while people watching in Markt.  What I enjoy about these the most… the crunchy-sweet bottom!  The three waffles I had, from different places, were all very nice. Can’t really think of a ‘best one’.

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2) Strawberries dipped in Godiva Chocolate

I know most Godiva outlets (outside of Belgium) sell these. I had them the first time last year, and eating these babies was, I kid you not, a euphoric moment.  They easily run out, so I was happy to finally get my hands on them… at 10 in the morning!

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1) Walking around in Bruges

Bruges is one of those places that seem like it’s been frozen in time. Cobbled stone streets, antique markets, canals, hundred year old houses and buildings… We easily spent two or three hours just walking around. The boutique hotels in the city are something else too! Bruges is perfect for a romantic weekend getaway (just an hour from Brussels). Ghent is nearby, and I wish we could have gone there too. Bruges  is like… Amsterdam meets Venice minus the commercialisation. In two adjectives: dreamy and beautiful.

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When I went: July 2012

Cities I visited: Bruges and Brussels

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