Monday, February 25, 2013

Bruxelles, Voici Onze [One Day, Three Countries]

Europe is quite small.  In one day, we had lunch in Germany, coffee in the Netherlands, and dinner back in Belgium.

Disclaimer: a great amount of what we did would have been impossible without the aid of a car.  We got that covered by making friends with a very awesome, kinda nutty Belgian and an amazing Greek DJ.

First stop was Monschau, Germany.  Google it. It LITERALLY looks like Belle's village in the Disney movie (Beauty and the Beast, the Little Town song).  But it was good fun.  The Beatles were blasted, there was some nice scenery and we even had a few crazy detours (thanks to GPS and traffic around Liege).

But... Here are a few pictures!

I'm at the border of Germany, and cold.

Flatmates in Germany! 

Like I said, Belle's village...

...with "Tradition".
We had a nice lunch inside a hotel, which had an adorable little French Bulldog... 

After that, we headed towards Aachen.  Or rather, the plan was to drive to Aachen, but we changed course.   Also, let it be noted that Rach and I were being teased for being tourists (and yes, I was walking at a snail's pace because I was taking pictures).  However, the guys got in on the picture taking!  

We got to the Netherlands, which for a first impression weren't particularly awesome.  It's kinda just... flat.  

I'm still cold. 
We headed to a tourist spot, where Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands all meet.  It was pretty cool, even if it was empty.  Afterwards, the other three decide to let out their inner child on the playground.

On the plus side, I'm in three countries at once!
Afterwards, I fell asleep on the ride back and just stayed in.  Which means: video montage!

video

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brussels Random Video, Part 2

So... Our host mom, hostess, whatever you want to call her is amazing.  Best woman EVER. One day, she decides to make us crepes, but since she doesn't know when Rach and I will be eating, she basically says something along the lines of "I trust you to NOT burn down the house, here's crepe batter, have fun."

Which leads to us doing this:

video

And this:

video

This is what my flatmate and I do with our lives.

Bruxelles [Clubbing and Bar Hopping, Oh Boy...]

I'm completely in love with Belgium right now. Brussels, Europe, it's basically a massive playground. And I want to stay here for a really long time. That's kind of why I'm looking for a job here.

Apart from that, my days have been filled with homework and classes, the usual ho-hum doldrums of any uni student.  Papers, a few presentations and group projects make me feel like I'm back in freshman year all over again, like I haven't done anything with my life.

My weekends though...

Let's just say that I've been having a blast.

I've been to quite a few clubs, done my fair share of traveling, and have managed to let myself... relax.

To be honest, I miss Morocco.  I miss the constant call to prayer, the reminder throughout the day.  I miss being able to walk by the ocean and on the beach.  I miss the chaos of the medina and the taste of too-sweet mint tea.

But I love the...freedom that I have here in Europe.

I love going to crazy clubs and just talking to people.  I love the student body government parties, where our UNIVERSITY DEAN basically provides a crap-ton of money for parties, and lets a few designated students basically buy tons of booze for people to enjoy.  I love trying the new beers here and even trying things that sound like a bad idea (absinthe that comes in a "bong" or a drink called Pink Elephant, with seven kinds of alcohol).

One of the clubs is gorgeous.  Spirito.  It's inside an old church, which they basically just remodeled into a massive, beautiful (and freaking expensive) club.  I got in because I knew someone who was joining a group of people who were going to celebrate a birthday party.  They bought bottles. And booked tables.  Oh boy.

I think my  favorite bar right now is one called Delirium.  Yes, it's a huge tourist attraction.  And yes, it's a bit pricey for beer.  But honestly, where else would you get to try passion fruit beer, cactus beer and a beer called Pink Killer?

I've gone out a couple times to a tiny club called avenue.  And yes, it's avenue.  I'm so official, I even have a member's card!  But anyways, ladies' nights are 10 euro entrance and free drinks all night long.  The guys have to pay 50 euros (sorry guys)!

I went to a very awesome party with my flatmate.  We were invited by these two guys that we met awhile back, for a birthday party.  Basically, there was a masquerade in a gallery, in a monument, in a gorgeous park.  Apparently, the guy just throws parties there when he feels like it.

There's also a great club called Gotha, which is similar to Spirito.  We went a little too early (12:30 or 1 in the morning), but we still had a good time.  The DJ's choice was... interesting.  Side note: my flatmate and I were the ONLY girls wearing tights. And no heels.  We were still taller than most girls.

We're also on the facebook page now? Mkay, cool.

In short, with all of this going out experience, I've learned a few things:

  1. Beer pong and drinking games happen all the time, no matter what people think about Europeans being classy with their booze.  I've played more drinking games than I should or have ever.  King's Cup also seems to be a popular choice.
  2. The bars around here are great. Really great.  Fantastic even.  You don't have to go to a club or anything like that when you could be perfectly content drinking a beer in a bar that has great music.
  3. Most people don't really go out until late.  Two in the morning is a great starting time.  Pre-gaming is advised, especially since drinks in clubs can get pricey.
  4. Going out is expensive (see 3).  But if you go out, you GO OUT.  I've seen more girls navigating the cobblestone roads in heels than I have seen in flats.  It's crazy.
  5. My tolerance is basically gone (two Belgian beers and I'm out of it), my wallet pretty much despises me, and I didn't bring the right clothes to party hard.  Oops?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brussels Late Night Vid

video

So, it's late (around one in the morning). I'm waiting on a skills test, and this is my life right now.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bruxelles: Welcome to the Carneval

Carnival, Carnivale, Carneval is HUGE.  Granted, the largest celebration is in Sydney, Australia (who knew, because I didn't) and most people think of Rio's huge party scene or Venice's masks.

There were also girls with Red Bull backpacks.

But Binche (pronounced buh-EHN-che) is unique.  Their carnivale celebration was named a UNESCO World Heritage Event in 2003.  That essentially translates into two things: it's considered culturally significant, and there are going to be a lot of tourists.

At the tourism center, Rach was having fun.


I thought the one on my right was staring...

At the same time, it was fun and amazing to drink hot wine, watch the crowds, and have some very Belgium frites.  We tried the ones with samourai sauce (a spicier version of the cocktail sauce we've been having).


The costumes were adorable, especially on the kids.

Even the balconies were packed.

How people wanted attention (and oranges)!
The white fluff is a hat that can ONLY be worn in Binche.
Adults clamored for oranges
(and yes, that was an umbrella being used as a bucket).

Rach's bag was filled.

Some of the orange porters got to take a rest during the parade.

And it's not a party until someone gets arrested.

 And finally, a short video of the craziness I captured.

video




Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bruxelles [Snapshot]

Instead of an actual post, I give you a short slice-of-life post today.

TOP FIVE REASONS I LOVE THE GRAND PLACE:
1. I love people watching, from the wedding shots, to the tourists who jump for their pictures.
2. It's right near the best fries (in my humble opinion) and a fun bar (Delirium Tremens, anyone?).
3. The guy who sells his artwork there lets me look, even if I don't buy.
4. There's always something happening: from the guy singing opera at eight at night, to the drunken Frenchmen at five in the morning.
5. It's just beautiful.

video


TOP FIVE AREAS OF BRUSSELS (INCLUDING PLACES I NEED TO GO):
1. Grand Place
2. Ixelles
3. Rogier (just because the City2 mall is located here)
4. Rue Dansaert (which is a huge party area)
5. Flagey

video


TOP FIVE PARTY MOMENTS I REMEMBER:
1. Vesalius College hosted pub crawl: Granted, this was for the study abroad orientation, but it was still fun.
2. Two Manchester girls, four guys from the states, plus our little gang.  And the party went until 7 am...
3. Going to a masquerade held inside a (temporarily) converted art gallery and drinking Moet champagne.
4. Learning how to play "Asshole" (a card game) while teaching people how to blow smoke bubbles with a hookah pipe.
5. One very special word: CARNIVAL. 

Bruxelles, Numero Sept [A Quiet Weekend]

Last weekend, my flatmate and I decided that we would spend a quiet Sunday in town.  The original plan was to go forth and find the comic strip museum.  However, we ended up getting ridiculously lost.

Therefore, we wandered around Rue Dansaert, and ended up relaxing.

I was amused by the appearance of a vintage Vespa...

...and graffiti that read "reach for the sky."

When we got a bit parched, we came across a gorgeous tiny little tea shop.  However, the small size meant that we had to wait for one of the six tables.  But it was worth it!

We ordered Earl Grey French Blue tea...

...and the dessert sampler: rice cake, cheesecake, chocolate cake and apple cake!

We also got a side serving of friendly, neighborhood dog.

We continued along our little trek and found something unusual: escargot.  Now, I've tried snails before.  But never have I tried snails that came out of a food truck, named Chez Jeff, where the snails have apparently earned world-claim fame.

If you ever want to try them, head to the area around La Bourse at five or six in the evenings.

To be honest, my tongue was tingling afterwards.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bruxelles [Flashes and Bits]



The first night, I arrive, all I can see are lights that seem too small, and a sky that's too dark.  But it's beautiful.

~*~*~

Whoever told me that Brussels has mild winter weather is a liar. There's snow and salt and ice, even rain.  I've already slipped three times, the soles on my brand-new (just bought a week before I arrived) boots are already peeling away, and my fingers are barely warm in my knit gloves.

But there's a calm in the morning when I look out for the kitchen window, with my coffee. I see pure white snow, branches that look frosted, and feel nothing of the frantic rush from my first week. I also see children, dogs, and little red sleds.



~*~*~

450. 535. 589. That's the final count of days that Belgium spent without a government in 2011.  I think my jaw drops when I hear the number.

Wallonia. Flanders.  Not French. Not Dutch.  Brussels is its own little bubble of intense isolation: French-speaking in the middle of Dutch-speaking Flanders.  The south (Walloons, Frenchmen-who-aren't-French) doesn't want Belgium to split. The north (Flemmish, Dutchmen-who-aren't-Dutch) couldn't care less; or rather, they're alright with the split.

I think of the Quebec-Canada situation.  And I wonder: just what would drive someone to think that they can't get along with someone.  Not even the "Well, I don't like her clothes" sort of dislike, but the "I can't stand you at all and I wish you were far away" sort of dislike.  I think it's the sort of dislike that causes people to kill for something that's not truly tangible.

~*~*~

Renee Magritte. He is - or rather was - a famous Belgian surrealist painter. He said something, a quote, once: "If the dream is a translation of waking life, then waking life is also a translation of the dream."

My dream was to have fun.  And I am.  Too much fun.  I've finally gone dancing, met people, have sixteen-seventeen-eighteen different phone numbers, and am laughing.  But I'm also grinning because I'm about to go to Dublin.

There's also a beer festival this weekend in Bruges, a possible day trip to Waterloo and maybe a guided tour of the commune where I live, Schaerbeek. 

~*~*~


I'm still tragically driven to try all the ridiculous things I find: Bicky Burger Crisps, Heinz Tomato Ketchup crisps, avocaat (a liqueur made with eggs), a soda produced by a beer company, jams, teas, and more.

~*~*~

I feel frazzled and hassled.  Shopping is usually fun, but it's completely different in Brussels.  Apparently, there are sales only twice a year.  Otherwise, a store can only have sales if it's going out of business.

I am on a mission to find a pair of boots, some tights and a small bag for when I go out.  I find out that there is a store called Cameleon. It's the size of Costco, with throngs of people rushing into and away from the store.  Still, things can be a bit pricey (150 euros for a sundress? I'll stick to the markets at Midi and Jeu de Balle, thank you.)

The end result is that I unfortunately end up sandwiched between mothers and aunts, daughters and sisters, even fathers and brothers who are looking for a good deal.

Rach and I emerge a few minutes later with empty arms. We decide we need a drink.