Thursday, October 11, 2012

Merci, Belgium, BelgYUM, BLISSium!

Be. Welcome.
Where do I begin?  So much to tell! Let's start with the screaming ass deal that we scored on this trip.  What we paid as a couple for the entire weekend (hotel, train tickets, breakfast, VAT) is a little under 25% of what we would have paid without booking through Travelzoo.com.  We heart Travelzoo!!  Click and enjoy, you will not be disappointed.
This wasn't even a small percentage.

This trip was interesting; I failed to do much research before going this time.  This is not typically like me.  This resulted in my going in with no expectations aside from waffles, beer and chocolate. I was not prepared for the epic architecture, beauty, art, shopping and perfect gastronomy that this fabulous little country had to offer.  My mind was blown by every single meal we had. No exaggeration.  Not only did it feel like everything in sight was on special since we were paying in Euros instead of Pounds, I gladly would have paid more than what we did for every bite that I joyously savored.  When even something so simple as garlic bread can be dressed in such a way that makes me want to sleep in a bed of it and salmon can be grilled to such perfection that I am convinced it was pulled out of a mysterious sea inlet in the back of the restaurant and immediately placed on the grill and fired to succulent euphoria only to be immediately brought out to my waiting appetite... I am then reminded and saddened by the digusting norm that has been established by the food corporations in America.  Unless eating at one of the few (but increasing) wonderful farm-to-mouth restaurants, a meal of this caliber and quality will never be found in the states, the land of manufactured, processed and genetically modified "food".  American 'cheese' says it all.  Fake, shared ingredients of a plastic compound, over-packaged, rubbery and generally disgusting.  Thankfully, the local/organic food movement continues to grow, and it is much easier to access as the years go on. 
 
Salmon tartare, the most flaky and buttery croissants I've ever sampled, fresh gouda cheese, beautiful grilled salmon, perfectly grilled mussels, lobster, local dishes that I hadn't heard of but gave me and my entire travelling party a giant tonguegasm, chocolate truffles that were even creamier and meltier than I had imagined, beer that was as delicious as hoped, and a waffle with ice cream and caramel that shoved me over the edge into a very miserable food coma.  I don't regret the waffle, only the ice cream and caramel on top of it. Bad choice.  I was not aware that real Belgian waffles were already more sugary than what we are used to for breakfast.  So much suffering.  I will be undertaking a strict Paleo cleanse in the coming weeks to purge myself of this sugary pile of diabetes inducing splendor.
Grand Place
 
The first day was rainy, but that didn't stop us of course.  We made our way to Grand Place (our hotel falsely boasted its proximity to this center, but turns out we were located in the Red Light District - more on this later), and stepped into an outdoor gallery of shops with an epic domed glass ceiling at least 4 stories above us.  Outside, but sheltered - lovely!  Chocolate EVERYWHERE, as in it was hard to decide which shops to go in.  Very expensive shopping, we knew it would be in the center, so we saved our spree for the massive 4 story shopping haven near our hotel (very successful shopping spree, mind you, screaming deals left and right!)
Gotta love the curve of the Earth...
So wonderful
 
Day two we had a full day tour through Bruges and Ghent, where we took a beautiful canal ride and moseyed about eating chocolate, amazing dishes, waffles, taking incredible pictures and having a generally fabulous time.  The leaves are changing and the trees along the canal really got my mind churning about the impending next tattoo.. I am drawing/painting this one myself this time, I'm really really excited.  You can lovingly support the funding of said tattoo by generously purchasing my art on Etsy!  Art makes wonderful Christmas presents, and I'll be having a Black Friday sale for all your gifting needs! :) 
Epic.
 
Anyway, after Bruges (and my waffle induced coma on the bus in between cities), we made a stop in Ghent, where we were privileged to experience the most incredible cathedral that any of us had ever entered.  I've seen countless cathedrals at this point in the travels, but this was by far the most intricate, grand and beautiful architectural and artistic creation I have ever seen.  I can't even explain the awesomeness, and I doubt the pictures do it justice either. One of the rooms even had a man sitting in the middle of it playing gorgeous harp music.  Giant stained-glass window bathing him in colored light, peaceful melodies emanating from his golden instrument, it was one of those special, breathtaking moments in life that will not be forgotten.   
 
I also didn't realize how multilingual Belgium was, with equally dominant influences of Dutch, Flemish and French.  Most people knew all of these languages and more.  It was nice for that 2 years of French back in the high school days to feel slightly useful, even if it was only a few words.  On the last night, we went venturing out to find a drink that didn't cost more than a meal in a fancy restaurant, as exampled by the drinks in our hotel.  As we ventured further from our hotel, we began to come across some "Ladies of the Night" if you will.  When we passed some whose voices were clearly not of the feminine persuasion, we realized that we may be in for an interesting night.  As we desperately hunted for a place to have a drink that had more than two lamps on and wasn't blasting Turkish 'dance' music, we came upon the Flamingo.  While I wouldn't immediately associate the name 'Flamingo' with the classiest of places, it ended up being really chill, having delicious cheap drinks and played good music as well.  They have this raspberry juice that tastes straight out of the patch, seeds and all, that they mix with drinks. Amazing. 
 
Last but not least, I must show love to our fantastic traveling buddies, the Myers.  It is hard to find awesome people to travel with, and I have much love for this wonderful couple. 
 
Next on the agenda is Rome for Thanksgiving, where I will be gorging on Italian food and crying tears of joy under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. 
 
Onward!
 
With gratitude,
 
Emily