I fell in love with Belgium as soon as I landed. Well actually being more honest it wasn’t untill I got to our AirBNB. I went to bed in Madrid at about 4:30 am on NYE and then left for the airport at 5:30 am. I landed at 9 am and couldn’t check in till 12:30 so I decided I would take the train and then walk the 20 minute walk to the loft to kill time, though my head really wanted to just get in a cab. I figured out the train pretty easy but then I started the walk and things went down hill from there. What was supposed to be a half mile walk ended up taking me an hour because I walked three miles in all the wrong directions. I struggled to work my older work iPhone so when I was leaving the train station I couldn’t figure out which way to go. Then I must have accidentally bumped it because I eventually realized I was walking to a post office, not the loft. I was so embarrassed about the amount of times I went back and forth in front of open cafes that I started carrying my suitcase so hopefully people would hear me rolling it on the stone sidewalk. I found the loft with 30 minutes to spare and sat on a bench and waited. At least I got to see more of Brussels?
Also how awesome is this AirBNB? And this is when the love for Belgium started.
Brussles during the holiday season is magical. The Le Grand Place is without a doubt one of the most mystical and enchanting places I have ever been. There is a light show that has music synchronized to it and it happens every 30 minutes. I could have watched the light show repeatedly all night long. We did end up seeing it about five times. We also didn’t wait very long to dive into the beer scene. We spent our first night at Moeder Lambic and Delirium Tremens bar.
Now let’s talk about the one drawback of visiting Belgium during the holiday season. Every place we wanted to go was closed. Yes you heard that correct; every single place. My initial reason for visiting Belgium was to see Saint Sixtus Abbey Westvleteren and drink Westy 12 at Cafe de Vrede and visit Saint Bernardus brewery and both were closed. Every restaurant I had researched and come prepared to try were also closed (things started opening again Monday January 4th . This was super frustrating but made for a pretty humorous experience. Also we ended up going to two extra cities, Antwerp and Ghent, because we had extra time.
The food you see above was a spontaneous restaurant pick because we wanted to go to Fin De Siècle but that shockingly enough was closed. This was the restaurant that made us realize things were closed. The mussels below were also a on the fly pick because Au Vieux Bruxelles was closed. We actually had quite the adventure on our last day in Belgium. We wanted to get mussels and frites so we attempted the Au Vieux Bruxelles and then two more which were closed. We then made our way over to Jaloa and we pull up expecting at this point it had to be closed but no this one was open but had moved locations. Of course we picked an open restaurant that had moved. All while trying to navigate around the ever so difficult city of Brussels. The streets signs are pretty typical for Europe but they are on the side of the buildings and not easily visible. Good plan Belgium, good plan. We finally found the new location of the restaurant and now needed to deal with the second hardest part, parking. Amazingly enough there was a spot on the same street almost in front of the restaurant. We went in and enjoyed champagne and oysters and then did damage on so amazing mussels and frites while enjoying more amazing beer. It was exactly what we needed after our stressful driving experience. We headed out to the car and I noticed an older man looking into our car and then we walked up and realized we parked in front of his garage. Duh there is never a front row spot. Lucky for us we some how didn’t get towed.
On the last night we had planned on taking the car back to the airport to not have to deal with city parking but it was raining and getting dark and we thought it would be easier to keep it. We tried to drive to our hotel and ended up on pedestrian streets just driving around. I was talking to the police in very broken French like, “Conduisons le voiture dans la rue a gauche or a droite?” Which means “drive the car in the road right or left.” I just needed directions to get out. Some how we made it safely to a garage and then got lost finding the hotel. In Belgium I really learned how bad at directions I am.
Even with all the challenges Belgium was a country that I felt a connection with. Like I said before I was in love.