In the months of planning that led up to the Europe pseudo-backpacking adventure, Brussels was appealing geographically being directly inbetween Paris and Amsterdam and also economically for its cheap hotels. To Kim, Brussels was a reasonable stop on the trip for a single word: Waffles.
Remember when traveling that hotel curtains are usually black out, otherwise you may sleep until noon. Completely unrelated to this little tidbit, we headed out from our hotel in Brussels to find a famous Belgian waffle. We walked straight outside into a downpour and unbelievably high winds. Deciding to test our raincoats and umbrellas, we started walking in the wrong direction. After Kim’s umbrella flipped inside out multiple times, we arrived at the waffle factory completely soaked.
Luckily, this was the first of several delicious meals and snacks we devoured in the European Capitol. So good in fact we would get another later in the day. After finishing our lunch comprised of what I can only imagine to be at least 95% sugar, the rain had cleared and we walked back to the main bus stop to catch a tour bus. This was the second public
transportation we had watched drive away from us as we were approaching. This worked out in our favor as we were able to get the optimal seat at the front of the second deck on the way to the atomium.
The atomium is a 102 meter high scale model of an iron atom which has been magnified over a billion times. The size of the structure is significantly larger than I had anticipated and also has a high speed elevator allowing visitors to reach the top. Our trek to the summit would wait for a visit to mini Europe.
Mini Europe is laid out much like a mini golf course without the golf. Kim devised a plan to make us millions by doing this in the U.S.- it would be mini US with models for each state except it would have mini golf as well!! Genius!!! While the scale models of the national moments and historical buildings from all members of the European Union are impressive, the entire park felt rather dull. (Because it didn’t have mini golf of course.) Our late start meant that we were rushing through trying to catch the last bus but we quickly realized that we would not make it. However we learned that Kim’s sciatica pain has lessened greatly from the walking and extra sleep that the vacation has provided thus far.
We proceeded back to the atomium and straight to the top. Loving being up at any high point overlooking the city, I quickly rushed to the windows to look down. Kim, thinking we had more elevators to ride and perhaps suffering from Eiffel Tower flashbacks, headed straight to the already formed line. This line was of course heading straight back to the ground.
After our very short visit to the top of the atomium, we decided to go visit the national basilica. Since the last tourist bus had left, this was our first trip on the Brussels metro trolleys. Compared to the Paris metro this was slow and confusing. The trolleys follow along streets still used by cars, stop at major stop lights, and operate without easily accessible automated ticket sales machines. It was also rather difficult to tell which spot the trolley was making or what stops were upcoming. This was highlighted for Kim and I when we got off one stop too early thinking we had missed our stop.
The basilica was an impressive building with beautiful architecture but could have easily been checked off the list from a simple drive by in a bus. Our mixup on the trolleys gave us an opportunity to walk through the park which leads up to the basilica. The outdoor basketball courts are also outfitted with metal soccer goals, which probably makes them outdoor futsal pitches more than basketball courts.
Instead of riding multiple metro lines, we hitched a cab to “Bia Mara” for super delicious fish and chips!! Kim had the Lime, Mint & Wasabi Tempura of Seabream & Basil Chilli Sauce and I had the Cajun Spiced Panko Haddock & Lemon Cajun Sauce. Superb! We also tried a Belgian beer – Vedett. It reminded Kim of Busch and me of a beer which I could not put my finger on. We agreed this took the best meal of the vacation title belt probably from the waffles earlier in the day.
Another waffle was in our future as we walked to the boy pissing, or Mannekin Pis. I had imagined this as larger for some reason or maybe in a more grandiose scale than its actual size and fixture on the corner of a building. After taking a snickering selfie, we found our second waffle from a street vendor. Coming in at a tenth the cost of the first waffle, this waffle hit the spot and was better than the first.
To my delight we headed to a brew house which was advertised to have over 2,000 beers, the Delirium Cafe. Perhaps it was the American top 40 playlist, the college frat house patrons or the 1,972 missing beers but this place failed to live up. So we left after a single pint of the house lager. Just down the street we made our last stop in Brussels and grabbed a pint at a much more local feeling sports bar and reviewed the pictures we had taken throughout the day. Unfortunately this was an hour before the champions league semifinal began, which I watched in the hotel room in anticipation of our early start the next day.