Monday, November 25, 2019

BELGIUM: HIGHS & LOWS

Hard to believe, but we've been to Europe and back in the last week for a whirlwind adventure.  We met up with some friends after he had finished up a work conference, and it made for some truly delightful times.  Since there are more pictures and stories than anyone else would want to read about, I'm just adding the highlights and lowlights to the blog, per usual.

We started out in Belgium, which turned out to be one of my favorite countries ever.  It is so charming and beautiful, and they are most known for waffles, chocolate, fries and beer.  What is not to love?!?

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High:  Antwerp.  Known in country as Antwerpen, which is what we decided to use.  This city probably surprised me the most, because I wasn't expecting much, but it was lovely, very walkable and friendly.  This was our base while in Belgium, and I'm glad it worked out that way.

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Low:  Our first meal in Antwerp was the worst of our whole trip.  Court and I both order Shrimp Croquettes and received these weird fried gelatinous logs with tiny shrimp scattered around them.  Do not recommend.

High:  We toured the Chocolate Nation Museum where we were schooled on how chocolate is made. The tour ended in a room full of chocolate stations where we could drizzle different kinds of chocolate onto our spoons to our hearts' content.  Amazing.  I especially liked the Ruby Chocolate that is naturally pink and was only discovered in 2018.

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High:  We stayed at Hotel Julien, which was a quirky, gorgeous place.  It also had a breakfast spread that required me to visit several times each morning to make sure I got to try all the options.  John and I ended up in a tower suite, which was amazing.

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Low:  There was no elevator, and we were literally up four flights of stairs, three of which were spirally and straight up.  John was so gracious to carry our bags up and down.  Still - it was worth it.

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High:  We struck out fairly early by train to be able to visit the cities of Ghent and Brugges, which I still cannot pronounce, even though I have visited.  They are so pretty.  I just realized that I am quickly going to run out of synonyms for beautiful, etc, and everywhere we went was really so lovely, and these were some of the trip highlights for sure.  We walked around the cities and also did a canal tour in Brugges.

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Low:  It was really cold while we were in Belgium, which we were prepared for, but still.  Being cold is not my favorite, however, I still would not have missed it!

Low:  Brussels.  This is not Brussels fault, I don't think.  We didn't give it much of a chance, because we lingered over breakfast and didn't leave a ton of time before we needed to catch a train to Paris.  It ended up being a blitz tour of about three hours, and after everything being so quaint in the other three cities, Brussels felt huge and disorienting.  It didn't help that when we were trying to store our luggage at the train station, several locker banks were not working, which took us a while to figure out.  Then we didn't have the right change.  Then some had urine in them.  Basically, not a great first impression.

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High:  I did appreciate getting to see the sights we saw, including the Atomium and Mini-Europe, the Grand Place, the Mannekin-Pis (though why this tiny peeing fountain is the symbol of the city is a little beyond me ...) and visit Delirium, a bar that holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of beers on tap.

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Low:  In a series of incredibly unfortunate events, we missed our train to Paris.  This included us running hither and yon through two different train stations while the guys lugged our luggage up and down all kinds of staircases.  It was hilarious and exhausting all at once.  We literally watched our train depart after I had run alongside it waving and yelling like a mad woman.  It did not stop.  We then learned that other Paris trains had been canceled that day, so everything was booked.  So, we elbowed and charmed our way onto the next train, but it required standing by the water closet for the entirety of the journey.  Even so, we made it to Paris only about an hour later than we would have otherwise, which felt like a win in the end.

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And that concludes the Belgium portion of our trip.  It was amazing, and if you ever make it that way, I highly recommend it.  Just pay attention to what station you should be leaving from. 😜

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