Last weekend I took a break from la vida española and had the opportunity to tour Belgium, a land of many delicacies. My roommate Carrie and I caught an 8:00 p.m. flight from Seville (SVQ) to Brussels, Belgium (CRL). Our madre, Rosa, packed us a delicious salchicha bocadillo, complete with essential Spanish sides like olives, cheese, breadsticks, and fruits. It was really helpful considering we wouldn’t arrive to our hostel in Brussels until about 11:00 p.m. that night. We took a group taxi from the airport to our hostel for around 23€, which turned out to be a steal because it was almost a 45 minute drive from the airport. Our hostel, the Meininger Hotel, was extremely nice! It was fairly new and close to the city’s center. After check in, Carrie and I immediately went to bed, tired from travel and excited for the next day.
This is Brussels, Belgium:
Now, a few things about Brussels: Brussels has a city feel complete with unique and somewhat random architectural structures and monuments (yes, I’m referring to the peeing boy-one of the most revered statues in all of Belgium). The climate is comparable to London’s with mostly gray skies and chilly winter temperatures. Brussels is slam-packed with character from both tourists and natives who all contribute their own unique flares. An interesting fact: Brussels smells SO good. Around every corner and alleyway you’ll catch wafts of fresh waffles being made. (I’ll save the food talk for later though, because there is ALOT to say about Belgian food).
Day 1: Brussels
Carrie and I woke up around 9:00 a.m. and went on a free walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was extremely animated and made our tour really enjoyable. We started in the Grand Place, which is basically a huge historical plaza surrounded on all sides by various intricately designed buildings. It was definitely my favorite part of the city. Next, we made our way through several side streets and came across the famous peeing boy, the legislative building, the Royal Palace, the park of Brussels, and the stock exchange. We ended our tour at a nice overlook where we were able to take some great pictures of the city. On our way back to the hostel we stopped at Le Lombard- a quaint pub with delicious white wine mussels and fries (Belgium is known and loved for this food combo). We were leaving Brussels that night to go to Bruges so we stopped for a few Belgian beers and chocolates to take with us on the train. We had round-trip student tickets for 12€ and arrived in Bruges around 9:00 p.m.
This is Bruges, Belgium:
Now, a few things about Bruges: Bruges is the definition of post-card perfect (as you can see). Tall, antique, and colorful houses line the cobblestone streets, and a river runs through the center of it all. Bruges offers the small town feel that Brussels can’t. It’s also the place that gifted me with the absolute BEST waffle, hotdog, fries, and beer that I have ever had. If it’s not yet obvious, Bruges was my favorite stop on our Belgian excursion.
Day 2: Bruges
It was on this day that I had my first true Belgian waffle experience at oyya waffles. No exaggeration, this was the best waffle I have ever had and probably ever will have, unless I return to Belgium. The waffle literally melted in my mouth. When we were on the Brussels city tour, our tour guide insisted that the waffles need no topping at all because any topping would mask the flavor (even syrup). He was right. We got them plain, and they were amazing. Next we embraced our inner tourists and walked around the center square and along the riverside. Again, Bruges is beautiful. We stopped for lunch at Chez Vincent (a fresh friterie), and I ordered a chicken kabob with fries and a side-salad. It didn’t disappoint. After lunch we made our way to a really cool bar”2be” that had a beer museum and an outdoor patio on the river. It was here that I experienced the best beer I have ever had, Bush de Noël. It’s a strong beer at 12% so it’s hard to believe that it tastes so good. It was described on the menu as having a “round taste” and as being a “beer lover’s liquid gold.” Truer words have never been said. After the bar, Carrie and I stopped for hotdogs and fries (another Belgian specialty) at a food stand in the city center. It turns out, that this hotdog was also probably the best hotdog I have ever had. I know, it’s hard to believe that a small town like Bruges, Belgium could be home to some of the best food in the world, but it’s true.
Day 3: Bruges
Today we rented bikes at De Kettering Bike Shop at 6€ for a day pass. We rode around the outskirts of the town for a while and caught glimpses of several fairytale-like windmills, and parts of Bruges’s countryside. The weather was perfect, 60° and sunny, so it was a great day for biking and exploring. In the afternoon we went on a brewery tour of “De Halve Man.” It actually was not as exciting as we had hoped because our tour guide was a bit uninterested, but it was all worth it in the end when were given a free home-brewed beer. After the tour we went back to our hostel, Hostel Lybeer, to pack and leave for Brussels. We had to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight back to Seville from the Brussels airport. But before leaving Bruges, we didn’t hesitate to stop at oyya for another waffle, which was just as delicious as the first.
Day 4: Return to Sevilla, Spain
We boarded the train back to Brussels around 6:00 p.m. Upon re-check in at the Meininger Hostel in Brussels, we decided to pre-book a 4:30 a.m. taxi to the airport to arrive in ample time for our 6:30 a.m. flight. This brings me to TRAVEL TIP #1: Always verify the name of your airport. Unfortunately, Carrie and I failed to do this and were unaware that there were actually two airports in Brussels. However, to be fair the hostel concierges made no mention of a second airport when we pre-booked our taxi the night before. Nonetheless, a great trip turned expensive and hectic as soon as we arrived to the wrong Brussels airport and were told that our flight actually left from a second airport that was more than one hour away via taxi. I bet you can guess what happened-we missed our flight. Four train rides, two bus rides, a two hour flight, and 200 extra euros later, we made it back to Seville. To put it nicely, it was an expensive learning experience.
Despite all of this, I really enjoyed Belgium and the time I spent in both Brussels and Bruges. I will forever dream of the country’s mouth-watering waffles, fries, hotdogs, mussels, chocolate, and beer.