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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brussels

At first, I wanted to title this post "Brussels...A Less Charming Version of Paris" because that's exactly how I felt when last weekend I headed south to Brussels for a weekend adventure with my college friend, Johanna who moved over to Brussels after graduation. We were supposed to see The Avett Brothers live but do to some unfortunate circumstance they canceled the show last minute. So, what else is there to do in Brussels? Eat and drink of course!

Naturally, I made a comprehensive map for the trip.

View brussels trip in a larger map

First of many stops on our chocolate tour. La Cure Gourmande has the most delicious cookies filled with anything from chocolate to raspberry to coconut. Yes, I ate all of those flavors. They also had a pretty nice nugat selection.

Even though the chocolate overload was starting, we just had to stop here for Libby! It's probably already obvious that I'm capable of coming up with any excuse to stop and try a chocolate.

Then, we stopped in the GroteMarkt to unwind from our chocolate obsession and here is where we moved on to the next delicacy of Brussels...Kriek beer. As you know, I hate beer but my love for candy overcomes my hatred for beer. And thus, I'm becoming slightly obsessed with delicious candy beer varieties. The cherry was only the beginning... This spot was also the beginning of my dislike for Brussels. Oh wait, that was when we first arrived and everything smelled like urine. Nice place to make the capital of the EU! Gross. The smug French-Belgian waiter only became grumpier when I ordered in Dutch. Here I was, excited to be somewhere that I can use my Dutch skills but apparently that's even more offensive than using English. Oh well.

I sat with Libby, hoping the sky wouldn't unload until after we had downed the cherry beers. Then, two loud, poorly dressed and inarticulate men walked up and sat right next to us. They fit almost every negative American stereotype possible. Suddenly, both Libby and I shuddered as this is the stereotype that we're constantly trying to avoid when subtly announcing our nationality to people we meet in Europe. Even better, is the fact that our previous conversation included the topic of whether or not we should speak English with an accent to avoid being singled out as Americans and thus avoid the following conversation....

Upon a strangers discovery that I'm American the conversation typically goes like this, "Oh you're not Dutch, where are you from?...The States? But you're so open minded!" And then I just get to interject a few mild comments while the other person beginnings to unleash all their American frustration to me, the closest American standing around. My response goes a little like this, "Yes, from the States. Yes, I speak Dutch...No, I don't like George Bush...Yeah, sorry about that....Sorry about that one too....Yes, I voted for Obama...Yes I agree with (insert whatever political issue is relevant to the moment)..." And then I try to interject some positive aspects of my country or culture or, depending my mood and the subject matter I just join in on the Bush bashing. But personally, I'm over it. It's quite a hard conversation to avoid no mater how much I try. GAAAAH! The perils of being an expatriate and carrying the burden of representing the world's frustration for America. Ok, end of rant and back to Brussels.

Despite their obnoxious observations, Libby managed to score a sample of mussels from one of the guys. Nice job, Libby! I made her eat it with the shells as I'd observed a French-Belgian guy doing at the table behind us.
After the cherry beers, we met up with Johanna at the hotel where she works. She wanted to show us the Mannequin Pis. It's pretty much just a tiny baby statue that pees. This is also in the category of things I wasn't impressed with in Brussels. But, I wasn't at all surprised that one of their main tourist attractions involves URINE! Bleh, this city was so dirty. Here's a much nicer chocolate version of the peeing baby.



So, if you can get over the dirt, rude French people, rude waiters, (rude everyone!) and extremely slow people then I'd recommend visiting Brussels. Or, you can be like me and make the best of it by drinking away the frustrating experience of the people and chase the beer with chocolate and/or waffles. Nice plan, right??

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