After arriving at my relatives' house along the outskirts of Brussels, I had a quick breakfast of toast and pate and dropped off my pack in my room my uncle converted from a garage. Having enough time to catch my breath, my aunt, my cousin, and I took tram 4 back past the main station to see the city sites. We immediately heard music coming from the city square stepping out of the station and it turns out that the president of Congo was in the city that day. And I was too, but it wasn't as if I made a big deal out of it.
We took a break for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant before visiting a comic book museum. I would've been geeked out of my mind except the museum covered more European and less American. We visited a few more sites, I drooled over the artisan chocolate, waffle, and beer shops, and arrived home. My uncle and younger cousin had come home from work and I caught up with them for a bit before we left to visit my great-aunt a few blocks down. In short, I was told to be good. Dinner that night was mussels and fries. Amazingly delicious mussels and fries in amazingly copious amounts. Now when I talk to myself, I can reminisce and wax poetic about that dinner.
While I was getting ready for bed that night, I was reminded that growing up without a big Vietnamese family around really sucked. But all the way out here in Brussels was an island of comfort and warmth I was able to call home, if even for a pinch of time. I was fed entirely too well, my clothes still smell of their laundry detergent as I write this in Berlin, and the conversations we shared were especially meaningful for all that distance that lays between us.
The next day was Bruges, a small town an hour's drive away. I already know that I'll spend a lot of time talking about this town when I get home, so look out for pictures when I can get them in. We did a lot of walking, had frikandele and fries for lunch and waffle for desert. I picked up a box of chocolates from one of those artisan chocolatiers and a kickass scarf since my Southern California ass didn't pack the winter clothes. I mean, what the heck are winter clothes anyway? Drove home, picked up some groceries from a Carrefour, had super-yummy chicken au gratin for dinner, and passed out.
The next day was spent with my cousins. I said goodbye to my aunt and uncle that morning and we rolled out. First stop was Waterloo and the 226-step hill overlooking the battle site where Napoleon was pwned. Second stop was the Atomium and Mini-Europe. In between was lunch at Quick, the Belgian fast food of choice. I took a tour of my older cousin's house, rested up a bit, and went to watch my younger cousin play indoor soccer. Dinner of crepes, drop-off and goodbye at the train station on the sleeper train, and I was on my to Berlin.
When I first arrived, I only thought I would be there for a day since Belgium was such a small country and I didn't know much about it. But the knee-jerk reaction I received when I first told my aunt how long I would be staying led to an immediate change of plans mid-sentence. As a result, I ended up staying three days. With every day I travel, though, I'm finding that I'm really glad I didn't plan this trip. I miss out on ridiculously good deals, but I'm earnestly spending my time. I realize I won't see everything I want, but I know I'll be back. But with warmer clothes and possibly a blow dryer to heat up toilet seats in the morning.
Next up: my stay in Berlin, including thoughts on traveling alone, wurst, and beer of course.