Brussels – January 2016

About a week after I got back from Beijing, I went on another trip with mom, this time to Brussels, Belgium.  Brussels is home to NATO, the EU and world-famous beer and chocolate.

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Here’s mom, coming through Business Class with the sundae cart!  (I swear, ice cream on airplanes will never get old to me.)

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We took off in the early evening from Dulles and landed at about 6:30 a.m. local time in Brussels.  Yet again, I did not sleep on the plane.  I just cannot sleep on planes.

After waiting for what seemed like forever in customs (which I’m sure was even worse for mom, who had worked the flight and isn’t accustomed–ha!–to waiting with all us regular travelers and is usually whisked through border control and onto a bus to her hotel) we hopped a train to get us to the hotel.

Neither of us is especially good with directions, and despite having found where our hotel should be on one of my Rick Steve’s maps, we were hopelessly lost after exiting the train station. (I missed the part in the guidebook where Rick says Brussels is one of the hardest cities to navigate, and it didn’t help that there were multiple exits to the train station.  Really makes me appreciate Andrew’s pre-trip planning and inherent sense of direction.)

Our first stop after refreshing our clothes in the hotel was the Grand Place, which is the central square of the city and its most famous sight.  Mom’s layover in Brussels is only about 24 hours, so we had no time to waste!

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Mom has a friend in Brussels who joined us and took some great photos as well.

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We were blessed with a beautiful and sunny (if a bit chilly) day, and didn’t really have much of an itinerary.  My only goals were to 1.) eat a waffle, 2.) bring back beer for Andrew,  3.) buy chocolate and 4.) see SOMETHING of note.  Perhaps in that order.

After a little exploring, we took a train to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History hoping to climb up for great views and photos, but were disappointed to find out the once-free museum was no longer.

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Instead, we walked the long way back toward the center of town, passing the European Union headquarters building and other notable buildings.

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Our destination was the Royal Museums of Fine Art, where we spent a couple hours seeing both ancient and modern art.  I enjoyed it very much.

After saying goodbye to mom’s friend, mom and I shared a waffle (topped with whipped cream, Biscoff spread and cookie crumbles!!) and headed off to buy beer to bring home to the hubbies.  While you can purchase many of the same Belgian brands (Duvel, Chimay, Leffe, etc..) here for $4-5 per bottle, you can get the same at their grocery stores for like 1 Euro (approximately $1 currently).  Super cheap.

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We also made sure to stop by the Manneken Pis, which is a (surprisingly small) statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain.  It’s one of the main sights in Brussels (there aren’t that many to begin with), and he’s often dressed in some sort of costume, the schedule of which is actually regulated.  Today, he was naked.  Mom bought a package of Manneken Pis chocolates, and I made sure to bring a couple home to give to those would would appreciate the little guy.

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That evening, we saw the Grand Place all lit up and bought our chocolate at Leonidas, which mom asserts is the best chocolatier.  For about $8, I was able to fill a small box to the brim with all sorts of flavored and filled milk and dark chocolate goodies–I couldn’t believe how many pieces I got, perhaps as many as 20.  Absolutely delicious.  Note to self: next time mom goes to Brussels, ask her to get more!

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For dinner, we both enjoyed the specialty of the area, ‘moules frites,’ which is french for mussels and fries. So, we had ‘mussels in Brussels.’ (Little known fact: it was the Belgians, apparently, who invented fries. Not the French.)

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We just about collapsed at the hotel that night after all our walking (Fitbit said 26,696 steps!) and packed up our things.  After a shared in-room breakfast, we rode the crew bus back to the airport and I got dropped off to check-in while the rest of the crew headed to the plane.  Thankfully, this time around I was able to proceed to the gate and even treated myself to a tube of Guerlain’s KissKiss lipstick, (Duty free!)something that caught my eye in a magazine and I’d been looking for since.

I got on the plane no problem (what a relief), landed at Dulles and was able to spend a little time with mom before I caught the last flight out back to Buffalo.  It was a great (if short) trip and I was glad to have met all my above-mentioned goals: Andrew loved his beer, I loved my chocolate, mom sent me home with pre-packaged waffles (yay!) and I saw multiple sights.  Now, I just need to take Andrew so he can experience it for himself.

 

Fruity Waffle Sundae

–Read the blog post about it here.

Fruity Waffle Sundae  (SHAPE magazine, January 2011)

1/2 C nonfat cottage cheese or 1/4 nonfat ricotta cheese

1 tsp grated ginger

1/2 C pomegranate seeds

1/2 C sliced kiwi

1 whole-grain waffle

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Mix together the ginger and cottage cheese or ricotta.  Toast the pumpkin seeds until lightly browned.  After toasting the waffle, top with cottage cheese mixture, fruit and pumpkin seeds.

vindicated!

Ok, so I know I’m a pretty adventurous eater. Not that I’m into anything weird and if traveling in an Asian country I would probably be pretty cautious, but I’m certainly not afraid to try new things.

Coconut on oatmeal? Sure! Ginger maple syrup? Definitely! Cranberry ketchup? Tasty!

Anyway, one of my favorite combos is a little peanut butter (or other but butter)on a waffle with a little maple syrup for breakfast. It’s fantastic–I almost feel a little guilty–and it’s a great way to get a little protein in while decreasing syrup intake.

Andrew never fails to give me the usual eye-roll about it. While he’s come a long way, he’s still not a very adventurous eater.

Anyway, (and to the point of this post) Andrew announced this week that he was sick of yogurt for breakfast (the same day as he spilled it in his truck–go figure). I told him in. I uncertain terms that he needed to have a protein, somehow, some way, in his breakfast.

I hesitantly asked if he’d be willing to try my peanut butter/waffle/syrup combo, fully expecting him to refuse, despite the fact that he does, indeed, like all of the ingredients.

Surprisingly, he agreed.

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I prepared a waffle for him, slathered it with sunflower seed butter (it’s what I have open at the moment), and drizzled it with a generous helping of maple syrup (he isn’t counting HIS calories!). Then, I cut it up for him and sent him off to work with it.

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Imagine my surprise when, mid-morning, I receive a phone call from Andrew, and I quote:

“It was… (pause for effect) …amazing. I just thought you’d want to know.”

Yes, yes it is. Which is why I’ve been enjoying it for years now. And yes, I did want to know. Thank you for telling me, and I WAS RIGHT!