Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brussels: The Land of Waffles, Beer, Chocolate...and Absolutely No Government

RyanAir: We're Just Not Fare.

This past weekend the Euroadventures began with a weekend trip to Brussels to see none other than Dani Lipsman. To start our Eurotrips off the right way, we took the highly-acclaimed airline, RyanAir. If you are aware of this company, no explanation is necessary; but if you don’t I’ll fill you in. Just to give you an idea of how this company operates, they wanted to make a plane where there were no seats…only a bar on the ceiling for everyone to file in and hold on to subway-style. The only problem with this genius idea is that it’s not a subway. It’s a plane that is going like 300 miles per hour at a 45 degree angle, launching itself 3000 feet into the sky.

Ryanair is a conartist. They trick you into thinking you are getting a great deal, a 40 euro roundtrip flight, NICE! But no. Then you get the fees. Didn’t check in online? 40 euros. Wanna check a bag? 50 euros. Is your bag a pound overweight? 20 euros. Wanna go to the bathroom on your flight? 1 euro please. In case of an emergency, you want access to an oxygen mask? 10 euro. I may have exaggerated a little, but good lord this company is a disaster. Not to mention, when you land, there is a victory song played and the entire plane applauds. Like landing a plane safely should be a given when you board a plane, not a miraculous feat that deserves a standing ovation. Horrifying. But don’t worry, I’ll be back on Ryanair in just two weeks. Wish me luck.

Frites, Beer, and a Crazy Lonely American Woman

After navigating our way from the airport in the middle of no where (this is also one of Ryanair’s games. You think you are landing in Brussels while in actuality they drop you off in a field about 45 minutes outside the city, and you have to figure out how to make it downtown. How fun!), we finally reached the hostel. Dani was there to greet us and the three of us went out for a delish dinner. Emily, Dani and I haven’t all been together since December 2009 so obviously we had a lot to catch up on and played the roles of obnoxious Americans perfectly. After dinner, we went to try some of this infamous Belgian beer. I don’t even like beer but the bar we went to had like a million kinds and these huge orbs that you could sit down in. I was more thrilled by the orbs than the beer but have no fear, Belgian cherry beer was delicious. We also went to an absinthe bar, which was amusing because not only did we have no idea how to order this mysterious drink but we were confronted by a highly intoxicated American woman of about 26 that was desperately seeking friends after her husband moved her to Brussels two weeks ago. We melted the sugar cubes in our absinthe like pros and took these horribly strong absinthe shots, but even that wasn’t enough to bear listening to this American woman’s entire life story…again.

Frites were up next. Because I’m cultured and have been to Belgium I know call French fries, frites. It’s the cool thing to do. Frites are amazing because they have a million dipping sauces to go with them. Any sauce you can imagine, they got it for frites. After we felt like we each gained 50 pounds, we called it a night and wandered back to our hostel, where we barely slept due to the extreme paranoia of knowing there was a Spanish man wandering around in his tightie-whities and 10 other randos sleeping in bunks next to us.

Brussels day tour: Peeing boys, Waffles and Gaga

Waffles were up next on the to-do list. We had delishhh nutella waffles the next morning that were severely over-priced but oh so good. Dani, our tour guide, then gave us all the fun facts about Brussels, including the fact that Belgium just set a record for the country that has functioned longest without a government. 250 days: beat that, Iraq!

The very famous Mannekin Pis statue, which is a statue of a peeing boy was next. I’m not sure why I was so excited to see a statue of a boy peeing, but I was and then I was severely let down. This statue was like a foot tall, and I actually said out lound, “that’s it?” I know, it was rude to say especially to a boy in such a vulnerable position, but I guess it just reinforced my belief to never have any expectations for boys.

Then came the art museum. We wandered around for about 20 minutes in the museum because, as in the rest of Europe, their signage was bananas and took us in a million circles just trying to locate our exhibit. We found it, but only after we ran into the what appeared to be the set of MTV’s Making the Video: Lady Gaga style. This contemporary Hungarian art exhibit featured plastic men with checkered heads all holding up huge balloons. I could try to describe it but just look at the picture. Sooo Gaga right? There was also a “modern art” video of a man peeling a potato. I really think I just may never understand art.

Leuven: Hooegarden, Chocolate and Vermin Twins

Frites for lunch of course, then on a train to Leuven to meet up with Kevin, a friend I met while studying abroad last semester. Kevin picked us up at the train station and took us to the Hooegarden Brewery, one of the most famous Belgian beers…and no big deal but Kevin’s relative invented it, look it up. Once again, although not beer’s number 1 fan, I lucked out and had a raspberry beer that was fabulous.

Short bio on Kevin: He is a serial entrepreneur and owns two companies that are focused on graphic design for tee-shirts, posters, CDs, and much more. Both of these companies are very successful so needless to say he is well connected. Not to name drop again or anything, but he’s friends with tennis allstar Kim Clijsters. So moving on, his VIP status earned up free tickets to a concert that night. And this concert was a cultural experience if I’ve ever had one.

The concert was no typical Kelly Clarkson lawn seat experience. Oh no, it was at a university and the performers were DJs who made music for video games. You can only imagine the crowd at this place. First up, the Vermin Twins. They started off good; just a boy doing this thing, making some music. But then, Belgium’s version of Kesha gets on stage: short shorts, writing all over her body, hair is a mess, and hood is over face….and she’s screaming. Then things get interesting. Belgian Kesha is highly entertaining with her personal camera man who is about 2 inches from her face the entire performance with his handheld camcorder, and when an American song comes on. The song comes on and we realize all the writing on her arms is not cool tattoos, but the lyrics to the song. She is literally on stage reading her arm. Sooo Belgian Kesha.
Ended the night by going to another party (VIP style of course) and saw a DJ competition. This crowd was much cooler and the scene was not as bizarre. No Kesha spottings.

Next day, saw some sights in Leuven. Emily met up with her long lost family, who look exactly like her, which was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Obv I took pictures like it was her first day of school to embarrass her in front of her new fam. Then the time came to buy chocolate. And I wish you could all have real Belgian chocolate because it’s actually God’s gift to the world (after me, of course). Just melt-in-your-mouth-amazingness. Mmmm yes.

For dinner we went to another frites place, oops. But here there was a glass case of meat and you would point to stuff and they would fry it. So we had fried meatballs, with a side of fried chicken, fried fish and frites.

That was the last supper to a deliciously fabulous weekend. And yes if you were wondering, I am indeed enormous now.

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