Tuesday, April 9, 2013

chocolate covered pearls

it was easter weekend & with our train tickets to belgium booked, we were destined to have a wonderful time! this trip had been on the top of my list coming into this semester overseas & I admit it entirely lived up to my expectations landing one of the top spots on my (expansive) list of favorite places... in both brussels & bruges, the cobblestone streets seemed to slow your thoughts down as much as your feet as our city speedwalking turned to a leisurely weekend-long stroll. the quirky street art of brussels did nothing but add whimsical color to the street as tin tin marched alongside tourists to the next perfect place for a picture while the canals of bruges and fairy-tale worthy houses felt like curling up with a cup of hot chocolate. 

{day one}
our first day started with the train ride into brussels. we hopped off the train with no map and no sense of direction : just cappuccinos & waffles in mind as we miraculously made our way up to the grand place & were instantly breath taken by the ornate belgium buildings around us. the grand place is just that, grand. fueled by a little extra caffeine, we started our insane series of chocolate tastings, ensuring no truffle or praline was left behind. blocks and blocks of chocolate shops & souvenirs later we had narrowed down our favourite chocolatier & made our way to the st. michael cathedral where natalie & I braved our way into the crypt (which turned out to be more of a small, well lit basement of very old stone foundation with a single grave). 

on our way back to sit down with a brew, we stopped in a craft market and perused the selection of hand made gifts and knick knacks you fall in love with but know you would never need. at little delirium cafe, we started our belgium biere (not beer) putting our full trust in the waitresses' preferences : I almost just wanted another baileys truffle as a cocktail instead. after spotting a certain statue of a little nude boy plastered onto every restaurant, waffle stand, piece of chocolate & souvenir gift, we figured it was about time we found the darn guy & a few minutes of random walking later we were at mannekin pis! lucky for us his fountain is surrounded not just by tourists, but awesome waffle stands where I had my first belgium waffle of the trip : the liege waffle with whipped cream, yum. before the sun started to descend behind the buildings of the grand place, we made our way back to the train station for our stay in bruges where we topped off the night with seafood soup & a pint of stella...

first glimpse at the grand place
 what you come across walking from brussels midi train stop
 first snap of street art
 la grande place (they speak french here)
 towered over us
toy shops get the best signs
 keeps it easy to find your way back to the square
 we decided this was the belgium version of brick lane : rather than indian food you get moules et pommes frites (mussels & chips, or fries depending on your side of the pacific)
the decently elaborate shopping center
 van gogh kinda scared me at first
 then he really scared me when we got close up!
 our chocolate initials
 artistry at the place
 see tin tin on the right
 cathedral spotting
 super super spooky
 I prefer the stained glass to the skeleton

the famous (yet tiny) mannekin pis statue doing his thing in the fountain

 first chocolate stop : dark chocolate covered dark chocolate
 the view inside our favorite shop!


{day two}
sunday morning & happy easter! the best excuse of all, besides being in belgium, to fill your stomach & heart with as much chocolate as three easter bunnies could ever fit. we were up & moving quite early after our couch surfing was caught in more choppy waters than expected, but found a local breakfast hut to stop in for giant veggie omelets & slices of bread. the leisurely pace continued as we followed the bell chimes to the belfry tower in the market square (belgium just does squares right...) for a quick photo op & a very long wait to climb to the top. we were quite antsy & slightly nervous by all the 'physical activity' signs posted on our way up the line but when it was finally our turn to climb to the top, we all agreed the notre dame was much much worse, perhaps we're just in monument climbing shape by now. the tiny ledges they called stairs were much harder coming down, but determination to hit our next stop sped us right down the steps. just across the center of town, we made our way to chocostory, the chocolate museum. four flights of chocolate history & facts, we were ready for those free samples after the praline demonstration at the end! I took the chocolate quiz on one of the screens to discover my perfect chocolate : uganda 80%, so very very dark and delicious (though I haven't opened the bar of it I picked up at a random store the next day). we strolled & shopped, letting the canals guide us through the small city with surprising ease. I bought myself a chocolate sheep for easter before the snow flurries had us hunkering down in cafe vlissinghe, the oldest pub in bruges dating back to 1515 where we  sampled a couple classic belgium bieres & wasted away a couple hours just chatting & enjoying the atmosphere of the early eaters & late afternoon sippers, some even helping themselves to the stack of board games in the corner. eventually we found our way to an italian restaurant as it sounded a bit easier to digest than traditional flemish cuisine (liver, no thanks!) before returning to the last hotel room available that weekend for a solid night of slumber.

 outskirts of bruges

 canals are so calming!

happy easter from the bunny himself
 the market square
 belfry tower

 view from the top!
I thought these street names (or something) point in all directions was seriously cool
we heard this baby definiteley more than once! 
spot the canal?

the crew climbing the tower

perhaps we were trying to move into the chocolate museum
 jan van eyck statue

 the oldest & my favorite pub in bruges!

 we did a fair amount of wandering & were always pleased with what we found!
 this is where audrey hepburn stayed while filming the nun story (now on my movie bucket list)

 scouting out potential homes
 is something not quite right here???

{day three}
waking up for our last day in belgium, I still felt as though someone had transported me into one of the miniature villages my grandma sets up around christmas time, though thank goodness our last day wasn't filled with snow! with a bit less time than the day before, I had a couple shots of espresso on the go (I have a problem, I know...) before I split with the group as they ventured towards the art museum & I went on a hunt for the picasso exhibit. as aesthetically distracted as ever, I ended up soaking up the sun as I finished my coffee sitting on the ledge of a canal, pausing to sketch the church behind me before a slight breeze had me moving through another market of randomly assorted things. a sign just inside the curiously beautiful art museum courtyard soon had me exploring the groeningemuseum's exhibition on brangwyn, a flemmish impressionist whose nautical watercolors & rainforest acrylics were much preferred to the dark, medieval murals I felt obligated to stop by afterwards. finding my friends back at the train station, we made our way back to brussels to circle the grand place just a few more times: stopping back by our favourite chocolate shop to buy gifts & obviously, for one last belgium waffle. a relaxing escape & a fantastic weekend, I recommend belgium to sweet-tooths everywhere...

 smiles in snow flurries : still perfect
 I found herby outside our hotel!

 yeah... that's blue sky! 
 almost-artsy moments on the canal
we stopped by our friend mannekin pis on the way out of brussels, glad to see he was feeling more confident today & didn't have on his overcoat!

1 comment:

  1. Sigh.... what a lovely Easter. Great blog, great pictures, obviously a great time!