Sunday, August 8, 2010

Brussels....changing weather, changing mood (Aug 3-5)

Having just left the stunning, quaint village of Bruges, we weren’t that ecstatic to be arriving into another city, this time it was Brussels. We were however looking forward to meeting our couch surfing hosts – Nathan and Barbara. We felt so at home in their beautiful, traditionally Belgian apartment and we got along really well, exchanging stories about our travels and culture. They shared their plans for 12 months travel through Asia and South America starting in September and we were inspired again to get the most out of our own adventure. Thankfully, they gave us some tips as to what to see and do in Brussels because we had not done a whole lot of prior research ourselves for our visit here.

Nathan & Barbara

The first morning we rose early with Nathan & Barbara, which was a little shock to the system considering we had been living the slack life and getting up around 9am most days! The weather was pretty bad, bringing us no less than a drizzle all day which meant that wandering the streets wasn’t that much fun. Of course it is really all in the attitude and this is something I definitely need to work on. According to Tim, I am like a werewolf….except my ferocious side comes out when it rains and when the sun is shining I am a completely different person….a little more tolerable to say the least. Thankfully I am married to a very patient man, but when it’s gloomy outside, even I know how to push him to the limit! It was a good opportunity for me to take a good hard look at myself.

We meandered the city for a couple hours (with our umbrella) first seeing the Market Square and a few other attractions close by, including the ‘pissing boy’ and ‘pissing girl’ (urinating statues). According to the Lonely Planet, these are apparently the most popular attractions for visiting tourists which was a good laugh in itself.

Market Square

To get out of the rain, we visited the Palace, which as to be expected, was grand and very beautiful. One room was particularly impressive with the entire ceiling covered with 1.4 million Jewel Beetles! We did wonder though, if this poor insect species is now extinct due to the crazy King’s decoration obsession!

Of course we tried more beer and visited one bar that had over 2000 different types on offer. Hmmmm, if ever being indecisive was a problem, now was the time. We avoided the decision and went with the bartender’s pick instead, which turned out to be a good one the first time. The second one – ‘Forestinne’ had a picture of a fairy on the front and interestingly enough, the beer did remind us of fairies and gold dust…a very strange floral taste that we couldn’t work out if we liked or not. We could acknowledge the brew was creative, nonetheless.

We visited ‘Castillion’, the last local brewery that brews traditional ‘lambic’ beer which is made using naturally occurring yeast with no added sugar. The final product is a beer that’s sour and slightly bitter in taste. Although the beer itself was definitely an acquired taste, it was really interesting to tour the brewery and learn about how it’s made. It was also fascinating to learn that this particular type of beer is brewed for no less than 3 years in wooden barrels.

We tasted the best fries in Belgium at ‘Maison Antoine’ and can honestly say they were actually the best fries we have ever eaten. It is commonly known around here that classic ‘French Fries’ are better in Belgium than anywhere else in the world and knowing we were trying the best in Belgium was a good indication we were in for a treat. The Belgians cook their fries twice under very specific temperatures and allowing them to cool after the first cooking period. This apparently, is what makes the outside extra crispy, while the inside is still really soft and fluffy. And they came with an amazing selection of sauces! Delish!

THE fries

Wrapping up our visit to Brussels, we got an early night, knowing we would need to get up early with Barbara & Nathan who were planning to leave for a few days away in Switzerland. Although Brussels wasn’t overly exciting, spending time with these guys was what made our visit memorable. Another friend made in another part of the world. Before leaving Brussels, we paid a quick visit to the ‘Atomium’, a monument which mimics the structure of an actual atom and was built in 1958 for the Brussels World Fair (Expo ’58). We took some quick pics on our way to our next stop – Amsterdam.

The Atomium


Nathan said...

Hey guys,

It was a pleasure to have you. It was great to chat with you and learn some funny aussie expressions!

I am looking forward to spending my last days of work reading though your blog and discover a bit of Europe with OZ's eyes ;)

Enjoy as much as you can and, who knows, maybe see you around!


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