Brussels was a big change of pace from Paris, perhaps a much-needed one. We arrived at our hotel just before noon, and the large square in front of it was nearly empty, except for plenty of construction. So we immediately ventured towards Grand Place, an enormous pedestrian-only square surrounded by beautiful old buildings.
Everything that surrounds it is somewhat touristy, but people go there for a reason: they’ve never seen anything quite like it before. We sat on a curb and took it all in for a bit, and then found ourselves inside a few chocolate shops – Godiva, Neuhaus & Leonidas being the more famous ones. Belgium is famous for its chocolate and beer, and there certainly no shortage their supply anywhere in the city. We were lucky to stumble upon Westvleleteren 12, many times voted the best beer in the world, and snagged two bottles. The cashier noted how lucky we were as it had just came in stock.
Brussels is walkable and not overwhelming in size, so were able to explore its sights on foot. It is quite ‘unpolished,’ with an excess of litter lying around on the streets. This was definitely a big difference from Paris, which for the most part was very clean. But it was still an interesting and beautiful city, and we enjoyed our time there.
Notes of interest:
1. In addition to seafood (mussels everywhere), there was always some form of waterfowl on the menu. I had it twice, once covered in an amazing cream sauce.
2. European restaurant service has generally been very slow. We had one or two especially bad experiences in Brussels. Apparently, service charges are built into your bill, and while some round the bill up a bit for a tip, there otherwise little incentive for them to offer service you might find elsewhere.
3. Dutch Metro tickets and American credit cards do not get along. We now keep a steady supply of Euro coins to deal with these situations.
4. That lifeless square in front of our hotel? Absolutely bustling during the dinner hours! And then I woke up in the middle of the night to hear an absolute party going on out there – those people clearly know how to have a good time, even on a Thursday night.