Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), Grand Place - Brussels
It seems very odd that I've lived longer--at one stretch--in Belgium than any other place in the world. Very odd...and also perhaps slightly perplexing and thought-provoking. With a healthy side of ennui...on your part.
I spent five years there, from ages fifteen to twenty, living in a small city about 45 minutes from Brussels.
Main Square or "Grand Place," Brussels
They were formative years. The drinking age was 15. The driving age was 18. (A brilliant system, actually.) My parents were "very trusting." This made us feel "slightly horrid" when we'd "take advantage."
But we did.
I finished my last two years of high school in Belgium, and spent the first three years of college shuttling home every summer and winter, for the holidays. It was heaven.
Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles - City Museum of Brussels, Grand Place
I loved being in Belgium. It was the best feeling in the world to board a plane in the U.S. and start the trip back across the Atlantic. Even when the entire plane was chain-smoking, in unison, non-stop, for nine straight hours. Even when I hadn't slept for days--after cramming for exams--and we were experiencing mildly horrifying turbulence, during which my short, squandered life flashed before my eyes in a dramatic fashion somewhere along the Gulf Stream, twenty thousand feet above the ocean--I was happy.
Knowing I was mere hours from everything I lived for..sleeping, beer, my family, traveling, beer, chocolate, Frites (Belgian french fries), beer...was intoxicating. Although, now that I think about it...it could have been that I was intoxicated. I heart Sabena--an airline unafraid to serve dem drinky drinks. Yessah!
During my school vacations, I used to take the train up to Brussels with friends and spend the day there.
We'd walk from the train station to the Grand Place--the market square--where there was always lots of activity.
Then we'd sit at the outdoor cafes in the sun, drinking our favorite Belgian beers..spending large swaths of time both "seeing and being seen."
We were never in a rush.
The atmosphere was wonderful.
All around us were buildings which had stood there since the 1600s.
There were interesting stories behind each facade.
Stories we didn't give a damn about, of course.
We did give a damn about the chocolate shops, though...Godiva, Neuhaus, Leonidas. Check. Check. Check. Nom. Nom. Nom.
And the Frites...with mayonnaise...that's how a true Belgian eats his Frites.
I spent lots of quality time in my youth devouring large, greasy paper cones of Frites. In Belgium when "one" wants "Frites," one goes to the "Friterie," of course.
(Right next door is the WAFFLE shop!!! While Mr. Lush stood in line and bought our Frites, I rushed up to the waffle shop window and bought WAFFLES...then I quickly snarfed mine before he came back out...
Whoozalilpiggie?? Whoozalilpiggie?? Giggle!! Me!! I'mdapiggie!!)
The new man in my life...
Now that we're on the subject of food, I should probably show you the side streets in Brussels, where some amazing little restaurants are tucked away.
It was Valentine's Day when I took these photos...
All the restaurants were trying to lure customers with their gorgeous displays of sea food and vegetables.
This one below even had Manneken Pis in on the action.
I suppose I should probably show you Manneken Pis now.
He's kind of the city mascot of Brussels. He's the lighthearted symbol of the people of Brussels and their easy-going sense of humor...or so they tell me. Throughout the year he's dressed in different costumes from all over the world.
This is what he looked like when we saw him.
He was dressed in a costume from a Bolivian festival of some sort. Weird, I tells ya.
One can never spend any time in Belgium without trying out some of the beers. I'm not a big Kwak fan, though. Menolikey.
I did drink multiple glasses of Leffe this past weekend, as well as a raspberry Lambic beer...so so good. Who knew raspberries and beer made such a tasty combination? (PS-They sell Raspberry Lambic at Whole Foods...we used to buy out the entire display every time we went. Nectar of the gods, I tell you.) When I was here as a youngun', a course, I used to drink gallons of Stella Artois and Jupiler.
Question: Do you know there are 450 different kinds of beer in Belgium?
What are you waiting for? Go buy some!
OMG. I just had the BEST idea. Instead of starting a book club...why not start a beer club? Then we could all try the same beers and "talk" about them!!! Aiiiiiiiii!!!! So 'cited!!! Will you join my beer club???? PUH-LEEZE???
So, what else can I tell you? Brussels was great.
It was slightly surreal to be back.
I should mention that we ate Moules (mussels) for dinner two nights in a row.
And they were divine. In fact, I'm pretty sure all we did in Brussels was EAT. Aaaaaand that's why my pants feel tight...aaaaaand why I wheeze now as I lumber up the stairs. I'mabiggul.
Coming soon (maybe) a short tour of the little city where I used to live...
All for now...