We got to the station early for the train to Brussels and hung out in a cafe before boarding the train. It was a short hour ride to Brussels Midi. Then we got to figure out another train system to get to the apartment. Brussels has an incredible public transit system with stops everywhere and trains coming often. After finding out the European SIM we got stopped working outside of France (not very happy about this) we got lost and eventually found our way to the apartment. After settling down, we ventured out. The apartment was near the Grand Place/Grote Markt (everything in Brussels is bilingual and that is very controversial among the people of Belgium). The square was surrounded by old builds that were lit up really nice when it got dark. We explored the streets, which were stuffed with tourist-centric stores. We chose a place on the square with a good view of the buildings for moules et frites… and beer. I had a dubbel and Kim had a blonde. The moules were very tender and the frites were nice. A sauce with them would have been desirable (I guess that is common at other places, with a wide selection usually available). We then went to a bar for some more Belgian beer. We both ended up drinking a few blondes there before drunkenly heading back to the apartment and crashing.

Grand Place at night

Brussels is a city that reminds me a lot of Chicago. It feels big without feeling important (in the egotistical way that New Yorkers or Parisians seem to view their home). It has a neat mixture of older and newer architecture. It feels cultured and varied while also being welcoming. We were staying in a very touristy area, so I tried to take a lot of what we saw there with a grain of salt. A few places we walked seemed a bit shady and I definitely saw, on two separate occasions, someone shoplift something. Kim read that there were some shady neighborhoods to avoid as well, so it has that going for it in the Chicago comparison. The city felt more like a regular city where Paris felt like a giant exhibit, filled with visitors.

the Manneken Pis

On Wednesday, we got up with a slight hangover (we were very bad about drinking normal fluids the previous day, so the few beers did not sit well overnight). For breakfast, we each had a waffle covered in Nutella, which did wonders for feeling better (and did wonders for our blood sugar levels). We walked over to the Manneken Pis statue, famous for being dressed up by the locals in various outfits. Today it was undressed and surrounded by tourists. We took some pictures and then headed up towards the Palais Royale de Bruxelles. When we got up the hill towards it, it began to rain down, so we ducked into the Musical Instrument Museum. It was a neat museum where you were given a handset and headphones which would start playing music of the instruments you were standing in front of. There was a very neat variety of instruments, many of which I had never heard of (like the Jew’s Harp or Saxhorn) and other variants of instruments that just looked silly (like a precursor to the electric violin with a large megaphone speaker sticking off to the side). We went upstairs to the restaurant and had some small food for lunch and enjoyed the view. Kim wanted to walk to the Espace LĂ©opold, so we walked from the museum to the building. The main entrance had a lot of people standing around it, but not going in (it was badge entry), so we figured they were waiting to see specific people. We had a wait at the Parliamentarium (their visitor center) and got to go through it. We took our time and read up about the formation of the EU, not getting to finish as they had to close the visitor center before we got to the end. A lot of the visitors just glossed through most of it, which was saddening, as there was a lot of good history and information there. We then hunted down a train station and got back to the apartment to rest before dinner. Before dinner, we did some shopping and then went to eat. The place I picked out ahead of time ended up being very crowded, but rightfully so. The beer was delicious and we had country sausage on stoemp (a sort of vegetable mashed potatoes) and Boulettes (big meatballs in a tomato sauce). Kim was not feeling like more drinks, so we went back and hung out before getting some sleep, we had an early train to Amsterdam the next day.