This was one of the first trips I went on during my time abroad. I studied in London for approx. 9 months not too long ago. It was awesome living in Europe because it made traveling so much easier. Everywhere seems a short plane ride away. (Versus in California, it takes at least 7 hours to get from LA to SF.) So a weekend trip to Brussels, Belgium was inevitable.
Here’s a recap of everything that went down…
I must admit I don’t remember the little details. For example, I don’t remember which hostel we stayed at – but does that really matter? I remember all the good stuff and that’s the bigger idea.
I want my photos to unhinge the burning desire for travel that I know is inside of you. But I’m also sharing my experiences to inspire you to create your own. Maybe you’ll go somewhere new or do something different.
So first things first. Check into your place.
The bus dropped us off at the Gare du Nord and luckily our hostel was within walking distance. We stumbled upon Brussel’s red light district en route to check-in. For sure not as crazy as the one in Amsterdam – this one spanned just a few blocks. But our initial impression of Brussels was that there were a lot of street dwellers and that things were sketchier than we had thought. It didn’t help that it was raining…
So we got to the hostel and divided up the bunk beds. Here’s a pic of Natalie and Tim setting up their sleep space.
Make your friends smile.
After we freshened up, it was time to grub and explore. We ran into this cathedral on our way to the town centre. I distinctly remember taking this photo, because my friend Oren (on the left) talked so much shit about how there wasn’t enough light and my photo won’t come out good. Took it anyway cause who gives a fuck. I think these guys look pretty cute.
MUST eat mussels – for breakfast, lunch & dinner.
To be honest – I wasn’t a fan of mussels until this trip. All three of my travel buddies love mussels so it was a no-brainer that we’d end up having this at least a couple of times. It took a few tries to get me to warm up to the texture. But flavor was definitely not a problem. Most restaurants served their mussels in either garlic cream sauce, white wine, or tomato sauce. Then they give you a side of fries and fresh bread to complete your meal. Order a glass of wine or a pint of beer and you’re good to go. Oren gives our first meal in Brussels a fat thumbs up!
Drink Really really awesome beer!
À la Mort Subite (aka Sudden Death) is a throwback to early 20th century Brussels. Very old school in terms of traditional architecture – dining hall style wooden tables, arched mirror panels, and high ceilings. This pub has always been family owned and it’s currently managed by the 4th generation. We each got a glass. I got a 1/2 pint of the Framboise Mort Subite which is brewed according to the ancestral Lambic recipe. It was my first time trying a Lambic. So delicious!
Delirium Café is known for its long beer list and for Delirium Tremens. Delirium is recognized by Guinness World Records for having the largest selection of beers in the world (a total 2004 at the time and even more now). We came after a few drinks at À la Mort Subite, probably at around 10 pm. This spot was located in a small alley and it was so jam-packed. There were a bunch of other bars all around and everyone was out that night.
Floris – right across the alley from Delirium Café. We came here for some of the green fairy’s magic. The bar’s shelves are stocked with different bottles of absinthe, whiskey, gin, and anise. This was my first time drinking absinthe… holy sh!t. I took a shot of the 80 proof one and started buzzin’ in under a minute. There are a bunch of ways to consume absinthe, but the most popular one is the classic French way. You take a glass and pour a shot in it. Then grab a flat perforated mini spoon and lay a lil sugar cube on top. Set the ice cube on fire so it dissolves into the absinthe. Drink and be drunk.
Do Something Memorable!
Europe is a popular travel destination so you’re bound to run into people who you know/are also from where you’re from/speak your language. We ran into some friends from our study abroad program. This happened right outside the Belgian Parliament Building. Across the street was this giant park with brussel sprout paraphernalia. Great photo shoot location.
Spend an afternoon inside.
Because we were in Brussels during the winter, the weather wasn’t too great. It was cold and rainy most of the weekend we were there. But that really wasn’t a problem. We checked out the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, which was founded two centuries ago and houses some twenty thousand paintings, sculptures and drawings. We came a little too late and missed the Musée Magritte… which was a bummer cause Magritte is sick.
Go where the locals hang.
Whenever I go somewhere new, I like to do as the locals do. What’s the point of traveling if you’re not open to experiences? It’s cool to visit popular tourist attractions, but it’s just as important to explore the road less traveled. In most large cities, the area that locals hang around is usually not where the tourists are. Often times what makes a city golden are the quirky and offbeat attractions that locals are proud to call their own. Oblivious tourists tend to ignore these paths and miss the gold.
I convinced my friends to go to a skate park built on top of an old train station. You can’t tell from the photos, but this place was covered with graffiti.
Make friends with a stranger.
We were at the junction of Rue de l’Étuve and Rue du Chêne when we made friends with a complete stranger. He asked us to snap a pic of him with the Manneken Pis statue and we started talking. Turns out he was from California, graduated from UCSB, and was traveling Europe by himself. It always gets crazy when you meet people from where you’re from in a totally far away place. Kind of makes you miss home.
We invited this stranger/new friend to join our plans. I think we stopped by a cafe to grab some warm drinks. Then we ate fried chicken at a Belgium fast food joint. It was a decently chill time.