Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brussels for the day!

Hi hi! I got here safe and sound - hooray! Natalie and Beau live in an adorable brick house that is all decorated for Christmas and even has a fireplace! Beau's parents are here to celebrate Christmas with us as well so it really feels like a big family. Natalie and Beau live about 20 minutes outside of downtown Brussels so this morning we had a delicious biscuits and gravy breakfast and then headed down to downtown to see the sights.

Passing the European Union building on the way into downtown, I realized how important this city is and why it is sometimes called the Capital of Europe. Not only is it the capital of the EU, but also NATO! Not only is Brussels an important city for government, but they also have such a mix of people living there - in fact they have 3 national languages (Dutch, French and German), but basically all of them can speak English too!

We started off in the Grande Platz (Grand Place) which is the biggest plaza/square in Brussels. It is huge and is surrounded by old, beautifull gothic and baroque buildings all built on worn cobblestone roads. It was built in the 13th century as a market and still hosts concerts and festivals - and this month it housed the Christmas Market - over 240 Christmas cabins. Not only was the Christmas market in the Grand Platz, but some of the most popular Brussels sights help close in the square. One is the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) which looks more like a church. It was built in 1402 and has magnificent carvings on the outside of many different nobles, saints and other figures sculpted into the side of the walls. It is now one of the more popular places in Brussels to get married - probably because it is gorgeous right?! If you look closely you will see that the tower on the building is off-centered, and because of this, is known as the crooked tower. Supposedly, the architect, when he found out of this miscalculation that he jumped off the top of the tower.

Next we continued walking around the old part, peeking in shops and checking out cabins of the Christmas market. Walking down the street, we stopped to check out Brussels favorite claim to fame - Manneken Pis. This is a statue of a little boy peeing into the fountain, which is meant to symbolize Belgiums humor. Because it is Christmas, Manneken Pis was wearing a Santa Claus outfit. It is customary, because so many heads of state visit Brussels, that visiting dignitaries bring a costume of thier home country for Manneken Pis to wear. I guess he even has an Elvis suit - obviously an important part of America haha - and now has more than 200 costumes! Manneken Pis is a statue of Duke Godfrey III of Leuven when he was 2 years old. Supposedly, the troops of his country were battling against the Berthouts and hung the Duke in a tree to encourage them and he eventually peed on the Berthouts from the tree. They eventually lost the war, and the troops thought it was so funny so they created a statue about it. It is pretty funny - not something you see very often!

Of course in Brussels we had to had to had to get a Belgian waffle! There were SO many choices of toppings but after much contemplation I decided on strawberries, whip cream and chocolate mmmmmmm. I was lucky and got to also try the carmel one and a banana/chocolate/whip cream waffle too! The waffles aren't like regular waffles but they have little pockets of sugar in them, so its super super sweet and insanely delicious! I checked into the origins of the waffle and it turns out that they came from wafers - which were made by wafer irons. Nowadays we have waffles and have waffle irons! If you look closely at this picture of me, you will see a little smidge of chocolate on my tooth. Now normally I would take a new picture but we all thought it was so funny and I decided it kind of adds to the integrity of the photo - really shows how tasty it was hahahaha. I couldn't eat the whole thing, partially because we had just eaten breakfast and secondly because it was ridiculously huge and it had more whip cream than I have eaten in my life!

With some more shopping up next, we stopped off at the Galeries San Hubert, which is a glass-roofed mall and that has chocolate shops, restaurants and clothing stores. It is the first shopping mall in all of Europe and looked so pretty, all decorated for Christmas! We even stopped into the Newhouse Chocolate Shop. Belgium is known for chocolate, and the best chocolate is supposed to be in Brussels. On top of this, Newhouse chocolate is supposed to be the best chocolate in all of Brussels, so you can imagine how delicious it was! Of course I got one with caramel...mmmm.

We also stopped off at Delirium Café, one of the most famous bars in all of Brussels. It has 2004 beers from all over the world! It serves of course a bunch and bunch of Belgium brews, but I chose a girly beer - the Delirium Apple beer on tap. The place was decorated with a bunch of old beer memorabilia of all different types of beers! Sad but true and very European, there was even a children's table where kids could order pop that came in a bottle that looks like a beer bottle - out of control.

Last but not least was the Royal Palace. This is where the King of Belgium lives and you can tell he is in the country when the Belgian flag is flying on top of the palace. So, as you can see in the picture, the King in in town!!! It is basically like the White House for the Belgian King. I guess there are select days that you can enter the Palace and see it, and the most amazing room is in the Mirror Room. I guess the entire ceiling is decorated with green Thai jeweled beetles. They are dead beetles that are very rare but have an amazing shiny shell, and the entire ceiling is decorated with them which makes for a huge luminous green ceiling!

Tonight we are staying in and making some spaghetti and guess what I get to drink: DR PEPPER! I am estatic! They are buying me a whole case and I can't wait to drink it! It's funny the things I miss hahaha! Tomorrow I think we are headed to Cologne, Germany for a Christmas ice sculpture contest! I will of course write more, but wanted to fill you in a little bit about our day today!

Hope you had a great Sunday!

And kisses in the 3 languages of Belgium - Bises (French), Kussen (Dutch), Küsse (German)

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