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Getting lost in Brussels

Thursday, September 12, 2013 @ 01:54 pm from Belgium Belgium
Day 78

The kitchen was slammed last night. There were a couple giant groups that were all trying to cook at the same time (and the kitchen is pretty small). I ended up making my pasta with red peppers, listened to a Coffee Break French podcast then went up to my room to read and shower before bed.

This morning I got up and had another chocolate croissant for breakfast then wanted to head out to the Parc du Cinquantenaire to see the Arc de Triomphe here in Brussels. I just checked the map and it should have been a 9.5 mile round trip but I got completely lost. I got so used to having a data connection and the ability to see where I was at any given time on the maps on my phone. After a couple mile detour I finally made it to the park and saw the Arc de Triomphe. The arc here is made up of three arcs where the one in Paris is a single arc.

I had lunch at the park then went to the Central Station to buy my train ticket to get to Bruges tomorrow. After buying the ticket I went over to the Grote Markt again in search of a Belgian waffle. I passed a few stands that seemed a little pricey but finally found one that looked good. I got a waffle with powdered sugar on it. The waffle was fresh out of the griddle and tasted amazing.

I ate the waffle in the Grote Markt then stopped by the Carefour express on the way back to the hostel to pick up some breakfast for tomorrow and some beers to enjoy tonight. I got a couple trappist beers and a random Belgian beer to sample.

I've just been hanging out at the hostel now enjoying the beers and some grapes that I bought. I'll probably try to eat a little early in case the huge groups descend on the kitchen like a swarm of locusts again tonight.

Tomorrow I head to Bruges to get the feel of a smaller Belgian city. Brussels has been fun but it definitely has that "big modern city" feel that I've come to be unenthusiastic about. There are areas (like the Grote Markt) that have that old European charm, but it seems like a lot of Brussels could be mistaken for any other large city throughout the world.
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Arc de Triomphe in Brussels
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Belgian flag at Arc de Triomphe
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Belgian waffle with sugar
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Me at the Grote Markt

Walking Around Brussels and Belgian Beers

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 @ 02:56 pm from Belgium Belgium
Day 77

I ran out to a Carefore market to pick up some food for dinner and lunches over the next few days. I picked up some chocolate croissants for breakfast and some fruit to snack on. After that I went to Aldi and got what I thought was peanut butter but ended up being some kind of weird biscotti cookie tasting spread. It was alright at first but didn't sit to well later on. I had a couple beers, watched the latest episode of Breaking Bad, then went to bed.

There was a couple in my room that was spending 2 weeks traveling around Europe from England. I talked to them a little bit then went to bed. I was exhausted from traveling and walking all over Brussels so I slept really well.

This morning I got up and had a croissant and some grapes for breakfast. The croissant was really good! I microwaved it for 30 seconds so the chocolate inside was nice and melted. I found some peanut butter in the shared food shelf at the hostel and used that to make a sandwich for lunch. I didn't want to have another one with that weird spread.

My plan for the day was to see a few of the sights and have some Belgian beers. I started off by going to the Manneken Pis fountain. The fountain is of a little dude peeing and is supposed to represent the irreverent spirit of Brussels. It gets dressed up in a different outfit a few times a week. The fountain is tiny and is located in a random intersection in Brussels but it was pretty funny to see.

I started walking toward Jubelpark which has Brussels version of the Arc de Triomphe but on my way it started to cloud up and look like it was about to pour again. Rather than get caught in the same situation as yesterday I decided to eat lunch in the Grote Markt and then find a bar to have a drink at. In my research I found the Delerium Cafe that has a Guinness World Record for most number of beers at 2400. I had a beer there, then went next door to their Monistarium for a trappist beer.

It rained when I was in both of the bars so my intuition to drink instead of getting rained on was correct. When the rain slowed down and I was finished with my second beer I set out to find some frites. I stumbled across the Friktos Tabora and got some frites with andalouse sauce. I think it's some kind of mix of mayo, ketchup and peppers. Whatever it was it tasted really good. It reminded me a bit of animal style fries at In-n-Out.

Sufficiently happy after eating the frites I set off for another bar I found online called Moeder Lambic and had a beer there. Belgian beers really are good. I had 3 different beers today and each of them was different but really good. Also, the lowest ABV of any of them was 8%!

I decided it was probably time to head back to the hostel so that's what I did. I stopped at a Lidl along the way and got a pepper, pasta and pasta sauce for dinner. I'll probably start making that in a little bit before the kitchen gets overrun.

For tomorrow I'm thinking about getting a day pass for the metro so I can see more of the sights without getting rained on and stranded a few miles from the hostel. I also need to buy my ticket to Bruges tomorrow.
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Manneken Pis
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Delerium Cafe
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Frites with andalouse sauce

Bienvenue en Belgique! Belgium welcomes me with rain

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 02:35 pm from Belgium Belgium
Day 76

After writing my blog post yesterday I went to a pub across the street from the Victoria Coach station and had a beer and re-read my journal entries from the first half of the trip. I had to check in an hour before departure so they could print a ticket and run my passport so I did that then waited for the coach to show up.

There was a bit of a mad rush to get on board because everyone wanted a good seat so they could sleep the whole trip. It turned out all the hassle wasn't really necessary since there were so few people on the coach that it didn't matter.

Sleeping on an overnight bus is about the same as trying to sleep on a plane, except without the steady, basically unchanging vibrations you get from jet engines. We got to Dover where we had to give up our passports to the French authorities. After that we waited for about an hour before driving onto a big train that took us through the channel tunnel. I was in and out of sleep during this time.

I must have got a few good hours of sleep because I woke up around 4am and then was in and out of sleep until we pulled into Brussels a little after 7 local time.

It was a bit strange stepping off the bus into Brussels. First off, the weather was absolutely freezing. I had my long sleeved shirt on and I had to put on my jacket and rain coat just to stay warm. I eventually made my way to a Starbucks and ordered a coffee and used their electricity to charge up my phone. Unfortunately they didn't have wifi I could use.

With a lot of time to kill before I could check into my hostel I decided to wander around and make my way toward the Grote Markt (main old square) here in Brussels. The city started off looking like any big city I've been to but as I got closer to the square the buildings got older and more "European" looking. It had just finished raining and I got to the square and took some photos.

Not sure what to do now I decided to hunt down some WIFI. I walked roughly toward my hostel and found a few pockets of free wifi here and there and was able to check a few emails. Carrying around all my gear was starting to get annoying so I went to the hostel and dropped my bag off. I charged my phone and used the internet until around 11:00. The rain had been on and off all day today but I was looking out the window to bright blue skies.

Since I was cooped up on a bus all night I decided to walk down to the Atomium (a giant building made up of tubes connecting giant spheres). It was supposed to be around 7 miles round trip which sounded good to me. Unfortunately on the way there it started downpouring again. I hid in a park under some trees for about 10 minutes until it lightened up enough for me to venture out again. I got some good photos of Atomium but was starting to get really hungry.

Since I didn't have cell connection and couldn't find any wireless internet I just set off in a random direction in hopes I'd find some food. After about 10 minutes of walking I came to a "Fritkot" which is a restaurant that specializes in Frites (fries). I had some of them with a stuffed pita and they were sooooo much better than the soggy worthless chips you get in England. I'm not sure why Brits find those poor excuses for fries acceptable but they do. The French/Belgians certainly know how to do their fries right. They actually double fry them so they all come out nice and crispy.

While I was eating it started raining like mad again. Without any real options I put on my rain coat and started walking back to the hostel. After about an hour the rain finally stopped and the skies cleared up again.

I stopped in some random little market and bought some massive Pink Lady apples and ate one as I walked the rest of the way back to the hostel. Once back, I checked in and got situated in my bed. This hostel is a half hotel, half hostel and it has a really cool vibe. A lot of concrete and a very modern feel to it.

I'm extremely tired now and it's only 4:30. Between sleeping on the bus and about 9 miles of walking today I'm beat. I had a late lunch so I'm not sure what I'll do for dinner. There's a full kitchen here but I'm not sure what I'm in the mood to make. I'll probably hang out a bit and maybe get some Belgian waffles for dinner instead of making something myself.
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Grand' Place-Grote Markt, Brussels
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Atomium from a distance
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Cool sculpture
Looking out over the Medina from my hotel's rooftop in Tangier. #morocco #tangier #europetrip2013
The rain finally stopped. Cardiff Castle from High Street. #cardiff #europetrip2013
Stephansdom in Vienna. It dates back to 1137. #vienna #europetrip2013
Conwy Castle. #europetrip2013
Notre Dame. #paris #europetrip2013
Alcove near the kasbah museum in Tangier. #europetrip2013 #tangier
I had gelato here last time I was in Rome. It was just as good this time. Over 150 flavors to choose from. #gelato #rome #europetrip2013
York Minster
I'll Duomo. Too massive to capture in one shot. #florence #europetrip2013
Entry into the Medina (and the street my hotel is on). #morocco #tangier #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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