Hello! I’m finally back with my final post on my trip to Belgium. It’s been over a month since I left Belgium, so I apologize for the delay. Between getting caught up moving to Madrid, settling in, starting work, and then prioritizing other things here on my website, this got pushed aside for a while. This post is in a slightly different format; many of my final days in Belgium were spent relaxing and sitting around the house all day, so I just wrote about the main events during this period instead of breaking it down day-by-day.
If you missed any of my previous posts, you can find them here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. This post should wrap up my last few days and departure from Belgium.
Brussels and an Old Friend
After the busy weekend of Formula 1, football matches, concerts, and parties finally ended, Xavier and I were thoroughly exhausted. We spent the next two days – Monday and Tuesday – resting. I wrote a lot of these blogs posts then, Xavier continued finishing working on his thesis presentation, and we got into a repeating cycle of eating and resting, with some occasionally pool time or errand in between. Once Wednesday came around, I headed out to Brussels to spend the day there.
I had been to Brussels a couple times already during my stay in Belgium but this is the first time I’ve wrote about it. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is quite a fascinating city. Besides being the capital of a country that has 3 national languages, it’s the de facto capital of the European Union, and these facts are clearly displayed as a crossroads of cultures. Everywhere you go street signs, menus, and more are all in at least 3 languages, if not more. This applies to a lot of the country as well. Every landmark, every city, they all have different names. For example: Ghent is English, Gent is Dutch and German, and Gand is French. Up to this point, I’ve tried to be (somewhat) consistent in my blog posts by naming locations by their local language (such as using Leuven instead of Louvain) but I’ve occasionally used the English names or the more popular name when it was easier.
Brussels has plenty of old cathedrals, palaces, parks, and landmarks that are well known, including a wide variety of architecture styles. Throughout my multiple trips there, I was able to see many of these, such as the Grand Place (Grote Markt) and Town Hall, the Parc Cinquantenaire and the triumphal arch, Mont des Art, Manneken Pis, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Parc de Bruxelles, Royal Palace of Brussels, Belgian Parliament, Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, and Law Courts of Belgium. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I took very few pictures of Brussels even though I was there quite a lot, and the few pictures I did take didn’t turn out well. I apologize in advance, for the ones I posted are not up to my standards of composition and quality, but I figured posting them is better than nothing.
One of my favorite parts of Brussels was Delirium, a famous bar that has the Guinness world record of most beers: 3,162 beers available from 2,004 different brands. I went during my first trip to Brussels with Xavier and Coco, and we were joined there by Lauranne. I’ve included a photo below of the menu for proof!
This particular time I went to spend the day with Nóemie, an old friend of mine from when I lived in Austria. Since the last time I saw her, Nóemie had graduated and started working full-time in Leuven, although she lives in Brussels with her boyfriend. I had been trying to reconnect with her the entire time I was in Belgium but with work she was extremely busy until this day.
We reunited initially and then headed down to the historic center of Belgium where we found a seat outside at a bar and grabbed a beer together. After spending a few hours catching up and chatting we went for a walk. There wasn’t a lot of the touristy stuff I wanted to do, as I covered most of that in my previous trips here, so most of our day we just walked around and talked. We made another stop later at a cool bar called Pin Pon, which was in a refurbished fire station, and had one of their local beers.
One of the more unique parts of my trip to Brussels was when we turned down a street that was littered with confetti and had a full-blown movie set. We asked someone working and found out they had just shot an upcoming commercial, but we never figured out what product/brand it was for. We then finished our day grabbing a dinner of Mexican food, where Noémie’s boyfriend Loïc joined us.
Further Time with Lauranne
As Xavier was moving to Brussels in the middle of the week to start his new job, I needed to occupy myself for a few days. However, 1. I wanted to travel a bit more around Belgium, and 2. I felt bad staying around with Xavier’s family all week taking up their space, food, water, electricity, etc. when he wasn’t even there. So for a few days I ended up deciding to visit Lauranne again.
My first day with her I got to visit Louvain-la-Neuve, the city and university that all my Belgian friends were attending/had attended. LLN is a very unique city; it’s entirely a university town and everything is very new; the city was initially built in the 1970s as a result of the French people leaving the Dutch-speaking Leuven (which I previously visited) over some cultural quarrel that I don’t fully understand. The French-speaking Belgians wanted their own French-speaking university, thus the inspiration of LLN (which translates literally to New Leuven).
The town is very small and modern, and although it’s very different from most cities in Belgium I still found it extremely cute. It’s entirely a pedestrian city, with parking and driving hidden underneath the town. Wikipedia tells me it’s an example of “New Pedestrianism” in Urban Planning theory, whatever that means! Anyways, Lauranne and I spent the day walking around her campus and grabbing a beer before returning home to have dinner with her family. It was the same day Xavier was presenting his thesis, and I had forgotten all about it until we walked past the very room he was in and saw him presenting! Definitely a weird coincidence.
After a good dinner of Belgian fries and a variety of meats from the local fritterie, we finished out the night with another friend of Lauranne’s back on campus to watch the Belgium vs. Spain friendly match. Belgium would go on to lose, but it was fun nonetheless!
The next day Lauranne was busy with previous plans, so I took the opportunity to visit Ghent by myself. Ghent was one of the top places in Belgium I wanted to visit, so I was excited to finally visit it before I left for Spain! Ghent is a beautiful, old medieval town with canals and lots of cute buildings. In a way it’s much like the more-touristy Bruges, but people who have visited Belgium before as well as those who live in Belgium all agreed Ghent is the better place both to visit and to live. Fun fact: Lola, one of my two Spanish friends here in Madrid, is currently living in Ghent this semester on exchange (I hope you love it there, Lola!)
After arriving in Ghent, I spent the majority of my day wandering around. I saw a lot of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Gravensteen castle, Graserlei, Ghent Belfry, and a variety of cathedrals. Ghent was, without a day, my favorite city in Belgium in simple terms of beauty and history. Everywhere you turned there were cute alleys with beautifully adorned houses, boats going down canals, and large Gothic buildings.
Some of the more unusual parts of the day were walking through some old universities in Ghent and seeing cool student art and architecture, grabbing a delicious Asian lunch at a highly-reviewed Noodlebar, and finding a cool public piano under an art sculpture directly downtown. I never got a chance to play it, but I was able to sit in the grass and listen to a talented guy play some ragtime and other cool songs!
At the end of the evening I took a train back to LLN and met up with Lauranne. She was in the midst of a BBQ/party with a bunch of friends on her campus, so I joined them for a while before Lauranne and I headed back to her house and went to sleep.
My final trip in Belgium took place the next day when I visited Bruges with Lauranne and her friend Alice. As I previously mentioned, Bruges is an extremely touristy city (rightfully so, however) and used to be a massive economic city due to its status as a port city; it’s located close to the sea and has an extensive canal system. It’s one of the few cities that’s been nicknamed “the Venice of the North”.
After arriving in Bruges, the three of us initially walked around and saw a lot of the main sights. Easily the most famous and noticeable sight in the city is the Bruges Belfry, but much like Ghent, it’s filled with old buildings, cute alleys and canals, and squares.
After a few hours of this wandering we got lunch at this very small, hip, unique cafe aptly named #food. It was a bit pricey but it was definitely a cool experience. The ambiance inside was super modern and the food was prepared with the final presentation in mind; it definitely was art mixing with food. The menu also was unique; each item was named a different song that represented the item. The strangest part of the menu was the last page of extras. For example, they charged 5€ for keep it dry which means “if you eat but don’t take a drink” and they had two charges both that were 99€; one was changes where they would charge you for requesting any changes to their items unless it was for dietary restrictions, and take a chair if you were sitting and not eating anything (although you were able to take the chair home, so that’s kinda cool I guess?) I ended up getting a mango and pineapple juice named hawaï and the disturbia by rihanna which was a lamb burger with feta, peppers, and mixed greens.
After lunch Lauranne urged us to take a boat tour of the canals, and while I’m typically not the person that does those types of tours I agreed and I am glad I did! The tour took us around the canals and we got to hear a bit of history about various parts of town, although the best part were the views we got.
Once we finished the tour we were pretty tired, so we did a bit more walking around and shopping and I finally got to eat a real Belgian waffle in Belgium…not sure why it took me almost three weeks to accomplish this, however, because it tasted absolutely amazing.
Thanks to those who followed all the posts detailing my time in Belgium, and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed writing them! I absolutely recommend visiting Belgium to everyone, as it’s one of (if not the) favorite places I’ve ever been. It’s full of beautiful cities, a very unique culture, and most importantly, some of the best beers in the world!
Keep an eye out in the near future as I’m gonna hopefully write a post on my recent trip to London, and I’ll finally start writing some posts on Spain now! I’m also exploring the possibility of writing a few random posts on reflections on Belgium, especially a post detailing all the beers I tried and my favorites.
One thought on “Belgium, part 4”
Good update, Mark. Eva and I saw Brugge, Brussels, Ghent, Oostende and Antwerp when we were there in the mid 90s. You definitely had more sun than us! I hope you did not ask for an ice cube in your Coke – I made that mistake back then. They have sure spruced up most of the buildings exteriors in Brussels especially. Antwerp was our favorite. Joe & Eva