A normal week that included a wonderful Beethoven symphony in the Municipal House and ended with a food- and fun-filled weekend in Belgium. Oh, and a surprise trip to Netherlands, because why not?
September 11th – Remembering
Cooked rice noodles with bell peppers and Thai peanut sauce with Jesse! Also made Korean-spiced broccoli and sausages for the first time.
September 12th – Great Life Choices
After a great day of class, cooking, and eating smoked salmon that Sean brought from Scotland, I was ready for an equally great night. Met up with friends at BeerGeek (who knew cherry, coffee, and milk beers were a thing?) around 11 P.M. and stayed out until 2 A.M. Came back and watched The Conjuring with other friends until 4:30 A.M, then watched part of Marley & Me afterwards because The Conjuring just happened before realizing it was 5:45 A.M. and then proceeded to question my whole life when I finally went back to my room to pass out at 6 A.M.
September 13th – Best of Beethoven
Thank you, NYU, for taking six of us to listen to a Beethoven concert at Municipal Hall! The solo violinists were amazing…made me miss playing. Don’t know how they hit so many beautiful harmonics and extension fourths. The harps, flutes, and drums also added such a unique dimension to the echoing sounds. And the conductor was so playful! He threw one of his flower bouquets into the audience at the end and gave the other to a violinist in the second row of the orchestra. I swear she blushed.
September 15-17th – Belgium (and a Surprise Trip to the Netherlands)
Soft pastel buildings; Gothic, Romanesque, medieval, Art Noveau architecture; imposing palaces, belfries surrounding market squares, and cathedrals on cobblestone paths…Brussels really does live up to the looks and feel of an international capital.
Chocolate. So. Much. Fancy. Belgian Chocolate. Almost cried trying some of the most famous Belgian chocolatiers‘ truffles and pralines.
Beer!! Belgians take their beer very seriously, from interactive beer museums to places like Delirium Tap House that has two floors and serves 2,000+ varieties of beer.
Fun fact: European Union headquarters are located here!
The Atomium is the Eiffel Tower of Brussels. You can see all of Mini Europe from the “atom” on the 7th floor!
Mini Europe is like a crash course of European history, culture, and architecture. Great to see before heading to other countries.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. The first place we visited in the city. Absolutely stunning exterior and interior with primarily Gothic architecture. Large stained glass windows, altarpieces, pulpits, mausoleums, and a small underground passageway featuring archaeological remains.
Grand Place/Grote Markt. The central square of the City of Brussels–often regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in the world.Surrounded by the City Hall, guild houses, chocolate shops and cafés, and the Maison du Roi, the square is known for its Gothic grandeur and decorative wealth. Every two years in mid-August, the center is covered with the Flower Carpet: 1,800 square meters of colorful begonias (over 600,000 flowers assembled in four hours). Wish I could have seen this!
Chocolate. If you don’t try Belgian chocolates while you’re here, you’re doing something wrong. Most stores let you sample fresh-made truffles or pralines to entice you to make a purchase, while others let you try them after you buy. Doesn’t really matter either way because you’re going to buy something.
Choco-Story Chocolate Museum. You get to watch a chocolatier make pralines and then try them! There’s also a chocolate fountain where you can dip speculoos cookies in and eat them. And an essentially unlimited “tasting bar” of cocoa butter nibs, pure cocoa, and milk, white, and dark (55% and 70%) chocolate pellets. Upstairs, there’s a small museum of the history behind cocoa farming and production, as well as a deeper dive into each area of the world where the best cocoa beans are grown.
Pierre Marcolini. A world-renowned pastry chef and Belgian chocolatieur whose chocolates almost made me cry.
Neuhaus. Try the tiramisu truffle. Just do it. And buy some liquor-filled chocolates while you’re at it.
Godiva. We have this chain in the U.S., but there’s something about going into the original Belgian store to try chocolate-covered strawberries or sample unusually creative flavors that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Delirium Café. The bar with the biggest beer selection in the world. With over 3,000 types to choose from, there’s no way you can’t find something you like. The café is split into three floors, with the basement being the original bar room. We tried half to full-liter pints of cherry, apple, grapefruit, banana, blonde, dark, and bitter beers. I figured out that I always prefer fruit beers and darker beers over lighter/blonde beers.
Van Dender. Cute bakery near our Airbnb with delicious quiches and a wide selection of cakes, macarons, chocolates, and other freshly baked pastries.
Aux Merveilleux. Perhaps the greatest bakery on Earth. Their chocolate chip and sugar cramiques (traditional Belgian breakfast pastry made from brioche bread) were buttery, warm, and fluffy, and the angels sang me to heaven as I bit into them. I would come back to Bruges just to get these again and eat everything I didn’t get (especially their iconic merveilleux, a small Belgian cake that consists two light meringues filled with whipped cream and dusted with various flavors).
Atomium. The symbol of Brussels, built in 1957 by engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. 5 of the “atoms” are open to the public, and the first thing we did was take an elevator to the top atom for a panoramic view of the city. You could see all of Mini Europe from there! If you manage to make a reservation, you can also eat at the Panoramic Restaurant just one floor up.
Mini-Europe. One-stop shop for all of the most iconic places in Europe. You get a pamphlet that explains the featured structures of each country, and you can interact with most “exhibits” too (e.g you can play the national anthem of each country by pressing a red button). Wish I could have spent more time here to enjoy the miniature views.
There were also many things I wanted to see but didn’t have a chance to. If I were to come back, I’d want to visit the Royal Palace of Brussels, the Musical Instrument Museum, Palais de Justice and Cinquantenaire. All while drinking hot chocolate and eating Liège waffles.
Bruges – A Day Trip to the Perfect Medieval Town
The capital ofWest Flanders in Flemish Region of Belgium. Epitome of medieval beauty. Iconic narrow, triangular-roofed buildings along the river canals and a market square featuring the Belfry of Bruges, a 13th-century bell tower with 366 steps, a treasure chamber, and a 47-belled carillon.
Finally got to try the traditional Belgian dish of mussels & frites at Bistro de Schilder. So. Good. Why is everything here so good?!
WAFFLES!!! There are many types of waffles, including Brussels, Liège, American, Belgian, Hong Kong, and Flemish. The most popular one in Belgium–and my favorite type–is the Liège waffle, which is “a richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier waffle” with chunks of sugar that caramelize on the outside of the waffle when baked. Yes, many food babies were born on this day.
Frietmuseum and Beer Museum were amazing. The Beer Museum especially is an interactive must-see!
All I did was here was eat and learn about potatoes and beer. 100% satisfied.
Bistro de Schilder. Come here for their lunch special of mussel and frites. You can’t come to Belgium without trying this traditional dish.
Chez Albert. Come here for Liege waffles and milk or dark hot chocolate. Touristy, but so worth it. You can choose to eat the waffle plain or add a variety of delicious toppings. The hot chocolate is do-it-yourself: they literally hand you a spoon with a block of chocolate, and you have melt it into steaming milk yourself.
Markt. Bruges City Hall and Belfry of Bruges.
Frietmuseum, You think you know potatoes but you don’t. Come here to learn about nutrition, history, religion, debauchery and sexual Shakespearean references, myths, world records, and more.
Belgian Beer Museum. You have to come here whether you know a lot or nothing at all about beers (my case being the latter). You get an iPad to point around the various rooms and learn about brewing process; various beer brands and their specific brewing guidelines; beer and food pairing etiquette; and beer’s relation to medicine, religion, and politics. At the end of the tour, you also get to do a beer tasting (5 beers for 10 Euros)!
Eindhoven, Netherlands – Live Más
We drove 2+ hours into another country because my friends were craving Taco Bell. And the nearest one was over 1,000 miles away. In the Netherlands. This is the definition of never giving up. And insanity.
Road trip. The greenest grass. Rolling plains. Endless skies. Windmills and sleeping cows and quaint farmhouses. Sunset colors. A sense of freedom as my mind wandered with the long, winding highways and open gravel roads.
The Trafalgar Pub. Didn’t want to spend my few hours in the Netherlands only at a Taco Bell, so while my friends were there, I took off on my own to explore the city at night. Ran along a river, walked through streets of jazz clubs, bars, and restaurants, and finally ended up at this British gastropub. Ordered myself a steak and onion pie that was absolutely delicious and creamy. Warmed me up and filled me up on a cold, windy night. As I sat there watching other groups laugh and eat, I couldn’t help but smile. This was the life. The longer I spent alone, the more I wanted to take a solo trip. If anything, this night run in Eindhoven made me want to take off on my own for a whole weekend. Who knows? Maybe I’ll plan a solo trip to Budapest and Bratislava later this fall.
Driving at Night. Took the wheel from Netherlands back to Brussels. Driving at night is one of the most relaxing, peaceful feelings. Blasted classic teen road trip music. Got back around 3 A.M.
Finished this blog post while enjoying wine and mojito with eight friends in a Barcelona hostel. What is my life?! (Next blog post will be in about two weeks and will recount my fall break in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, and Munich for Oktoberfest!)
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