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Archives for August 2013

Brussels, Belgium: Treats and Sweets

Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate, Belgian beer, and Belgian food and snacks. You always have to try the “original” when you’re in the area!

Belgian waffles: What makes a waffle a Belgian waffle? Truthfully, this type of waffle doesn’t actually exist (name-wise) in Belgium. What I ended up having is Brussels waffles. Strange thought, right? I had one for breakfast each morning. In one of my previous posts, there’s an image of me chomping down on a waffle, which is always a fun thing to do knowing you can eat this on the go. These waffles below are Brussels waffles, are lighter and crispier than the other waffles available in Belgium (Flemish and Liège waffles). This type of waffle is popular among the street vendors that were nearby our hotel.

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Belgian Chocolate: If you check out my past blog post, there is an image that displays the process from cacao bean to chocolate. The stigma of Belgian chocolate is its high quality. Tasting the different percentages of chocolate, you really do end up tasting the difference, from sweet to bitter. It really is a spectacular thing all on its own.

These chocolates were our souvenirs we brought home. The image only shows the 85% chocolate (silver marking) and 72% chocolate (golden marking). The percentage indicates the amount of cacao in the chocolate, which means these 2 are a bit on the bittersweet side, but still pleasant and very rich.

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Belgian food and snacks: There really is a lot to try, even more than my stomach can handle when it comes to street vendors and food in the restaurants.

Escargot – While I would have been adventurous in trying this, especially when our tour bus driver pointed us to this location – aka his favorite escargot snack, the line was ridiculously long. Sigh, next time. Perhaps the word got out about this street vendor?

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Vol au Vent- This is a Belgian specialty. It is a pastry that was filled chicken with mushroom sauce. It looked like a heavy dish. I was a lame-o and didn’t get a Belgian specialty. Boo on my part.

There is also a stew (don’t recall the name) that is a Belgian traditional dish. Just like it came out of momma’s kitchen. Nom nom.

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Belgian Beer: I can’t say I’m a total beer fanatic. But as they say, when in Rome… Belgium! We had Hoegaarden during our one and only official dinner there. It’s a local brewery and is served in its own and “special glass”, like the ones shown below.

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While walking around Brussels, this store had all the local brews and could ship your selected cases back home or to tote back. There was a lot of selection available.

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The other Belgian treats and goodies that is still on my “food to eat” list:

  • mussels; known for being the country’s national dish. I did see quite a few people order this, but my palate was craving something different.
  • Belgian beef stew; that just sounds really good
  • Escargot; from a street vendor, like that guy up there. It has to be good for people to wait in a severely long line for it.
  • more of the local beers; because (once again) when in Rome.

Have fun rummaging through your kitchen now that I’ve made you hungry. =) Happy travels friends.

Bruges, Belgium: Venice of the North

Brugge (or Bruge) was the next destination of our tour.

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We walked through the courtyard of these white buildings. Today it is a convent. Back in the day, the single girls in the town would live here under the care of nuns and become a nun themselves, but when they find a “nice guy” they’re able to leave the convent… interesting huh.

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After walking through the courtyard, we were in the hustle and bustle of the town.

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Walking through this narrow street led us to the place where we were going to have lunch. Yah, I was hungry.

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After lunch, we were on our own to tour the town. Along the same street as the restaurant, there were once again many sweet shops. They were quite adorable.

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I really like this picture of the chocolate shop. It reminds me of those “hole in the wall” restaurants.

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We took a boat ride on the canal. Bruges is referenced as the Venice of the North. The flowers were pretty and fragrant. It helped pass the time waiting for the boat.

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Apologies ahead of time if these building titles are not correct. For now, I am certain that this is the St. John Hospital.

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Here we have the most photographed area for tourists. There is a dock nearby called the Quai of the Rosary, and is a popular meeting point and view. The first picture below shows the Malvenda Perez house and the Belfort bell tower. The second picture shows the Duc de Bourgogne (hotel) and the Tanner’s Guild House.

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I am always attracted to the architecture. I have a slight fascination for older buildings.

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Back on land, we were on the go again, we made it to the main square of Bruges. There are shops, restaurants and a Dali museum.

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Veering just a little bit off of the main square, we came to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The relic inside of this church were said to have been collected by Joseph of Arimathia. While we didn’t go inside the church, the exterior is haunting and beautiful.

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Next to this church is the Bruges Provincial Courthouse.

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Those were the last sights my dad and I got to see before heading back to Brussels. Its just fun to travel to see new sights and learn new things, and of course, (for me) to jump around the world. Happy travels friends.

Ghent, Belgium: Food, Tour and Souvenirs

Waffles is the sure way to start the day in Belgium. I really like how you’re able to order and eat it on the go. There are little tables available though for you to sit at and soak in your surroundings.

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Of course I had to go fancy and get strawberries and powdered sugar on mine.

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With my tummy full, I was ready to take on the day with a guided tour through Ghent and Brugge.

This is my first sights of Ghent, or as they spell it, Gent. Nicole explained there was a music festival during the weekend that ended last night. These are the remains and the high stench of beer in the air. Ironically enough, there were quite a few churches next to the stages and its bells would ring each hour.

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Just makes you wonder a little bit of what their definition of “party hard” really means, doesn’t it?

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Once we got past the remains of the festivities, we were able to enjoy the town of Ghent, minus the beer bottles and cups strewn about. So this building here with all the windows used to be a watch tower back in the day. It is certainly an interesting look for a roof with all those windows.

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The town was cute and quaint. It’s one of those places I wouldn’t mind walking through on a Sunday afternoon (… which was what we were doing).

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As we weaved through, Nicole brought our attention to the tops of the buildings because they are fake. You can see that more clearly in the 2 buildings on the right. It is merely only a facade. Interesting right? Without it, I think the architecture would look so plain.

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We then rounded the corner and came around this awesome castle! … aka the Gravensteen, which translates roughly to “the count’s castle” (Counts of Flanders). This castle is from the Middle Ages. You are able to tour the castle, but that was not part of the one we were on (womp womp).

There’s something about castles that brings me back to my little kid imagination days and wanting to roam the castle as my favorite Disney princess (Belle)… along with the speaking furniture =P.

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This is the street and buildings that are pictured in many of the Ghent tour guide pamphlets and postcards.

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See? Pretty neat, huh.

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St. Baafskathedrall (St. Bavo Cathedral) in Ghent holds this well-known triptych altar painting by Van Eyck. No pictures were allowed, so respecting that, here is a postcard photo of it.

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I believe this is the cathedral (apologies ahead of time if it’s not… then just enjoy the beauty of what it is ^_^).

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We were free to browse the shops for a short time before getting back on the tour bus. Truth though, lace is definitely the selling point here, and they made that known.

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Food, tour and souvenirs. All in a 1/2 day’s travels in Ghent. The tour bus continues to Brugge next week. Until then, happy travel friends!

Brussels, Belgium: Manneken Pis

Before you get all offended, it’s not what you think. Behold – Manneken Pis (literally meaning “little man pee”).

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In my previous blog post, I wrote about a good luck charm statue and its location in the underpass. If you continue down that path, you will see this little fella. This little boy statue is quite the tourist attraction in Brussels. He’s a pretty big deal. You don’t get molded into chocolate unless you do something significant, right?

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Truth is, there are variations of the story. To sum up the stories, brussels.info does a good job: “One story tells of a tourist father who lost his son in the city and after receiving help from villagers to find the boy, he gifted this statue to them. Another, more daring, tale is one where the boy was a spy during a siege of the city. He literally put out a ploy to bomb the city by urinating on the explosives!” The statue certainly gives people something to talk about.

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Unfortunately for us, the fountain statue wasn’t dressed up for any festivities. The fun thing about this little boy statue is Belgians include it in any of its celebrations. If you click on the image below, a new window/tab will open to the website (where this image came from) and you can view a gallery of just a sample of its many costumes.

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Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Happy travels friends.