Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Belgian Brother Isn't SO Stupid

One of the absolutely most amazing things about living in Paris is how completely fast and easy it is to get to other countries. In NYC, it took me a two hour train ride to get to my childhood home in Connecticut. A two hour train ride from Paris can get me to London, Luxembourg, or most recently, Brussels. The only unfortunate thing is that the train is probably the most expensive of the options to travel these days. So, when my dear big brother told me he would be in Brussels for work and then begged and pleaded for me to come and meet him there, after finding out last minute he would be available his final night, the train prices had skyrocketed. Admittedly, he probably didn't beg and plead so much as casually suggest it wouldn't be a terrible plan. But that's how things work in our family. We are a bunch of overemotional creative geniuses and therefore temper our vehement feelings with mock disgust... just for fun, you know.

That being said, I therefore took my father's advice at long last, choosing the more economical travel option. €30 for a roundtrip bus ticket to Brussels, approximately 4 hours each way. Yes, the train would have been nicer and faster, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. So that Saturday morning, I got myself to the Megabus and trekked my way into Belgium. I arrived a little after noon and I knew my brother wouldn't be able to meet for a few hours still, so I had done a bit of research to fill my time. I knew from my adventures in Bruges (what is it with my family and Belgium?) that I needed to have the requisite beer, waffle, and frites. I had mapped my way from the bus station to Grand Place by foot, the main square, so that I could hopefully enjoy some of the scenery en route. The path I took ended up being a little industrial for my taste, but once I got into the heart of the city, the architecture of yore began making its presence known. Amidst it all there was also a large avenue that was partly devoted to pedestrians, colorfully painted squares decorating the street and wooden seating lining the way. I started to notice the billions of waffle shops every few feet and various tourists holding paper cones cascading in frites. When I finally made it to Grand Place, it was like walking back in time through a doorway carved right out of modernity. Each side of the square is made up of enormous buildings with ornate facades. I walked around for a few minutes then decided to seek out another one of Brussels' claims to fame, the Manneken Pis.

Now, had this not been within a stone's throw from Grand Place, I am not sure that I would have sought it out in particular. The little statue of a young boy peeing into a fountain is small, confusing, and frankly bizarre. Not to mention the fact that I had zero preparation for the sight of it donning a clown costume, or a pierrot to be more precise. Apparently there is a whole museum filled with costumes for the little lad, changed every day for the delight of the public... or rather, I have absolutely no idea why it is changed everyday and I was mainly baffled by the entire concept. All I knew was that after such an experience, I was in severe need of food and drink, so I housed a magnificent waffle covered in fruit and nutella, then sat myself down at a cafe not far from where my brother would be staying, to enjoy the delights of a true Belgian beer.

At long last, stupid sibling made it to the hotel and I frolicked off to meet him. Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Now, I can't say I am the massive comic or cartoon buff that my brother is, particularly because I did not inherit the visually artistic gene (and he wasn't blessed with the singing one, so suck it). But since I love all things childlike and ridiculous, I was certainly game to support him in his whimsy. It was actually a really interesting time, helped along by the fact that brother likes to be relatively cool and informative when no one is watching (vomit, gross). We saw the Belgian classics, Tintin and Les Schtroumpfs (the Smurfs for all of us stubborn Americans) and I only had to endure brother salivating in the book shop for less than an hour.

After the museum, we dropped our plunder at the hotel and went off in search of some of brother's work colleagues. Apparently there was a group planning on beer crawling, so we headed to their current location to hop along. It ended up being a fun group, everyone bonding and friendly from a week of teamwork abroad. Since neither my brother nor myself are quiet wall flowers, we chatted and imbibed, a second round of beer gifted us by one of the higher ups while I ran off to purchase brother and I some frites. Eventually, it was decided that a smaller offshoot of the larger contingency would band together for a real dinner, so we set off for a suggested area. We landed along a small canal bordered by a variety of restaurants. They all had outdoor seating and typical Belgian fare, so we chose a yummy looking one and sat down. Interestingly, there was a small duck house sitting in the middle of the water, making it all the more charming.

Most of us chose fixed menus, fortifying our stomachs for more drinking during and after. We were headed back out to a bar called Delirium post-dinner, which is apparently home to over 2000 different kinds of beer. It was also home to practically anyone out in Brussels on a Saturday night. There were people pouring onto the sidewalks and all of the bars on this small little street were filled to the brim. It was certainly a sight to see, but after a long day of drinking, not necessarily the best in terms of comfort. I ordered a pink beer, because that is what you do when it is on the menu, but after a bit more barhopping I was pretty knackered out. Brother and I finally made our way back to the hotel where we were to camp out in the tiniest room imaginable. Happily, the bedding was many-layered, so I had plenty of cushioning for my spot on the floor.

The Lewonczyks taking on any city is always a site to behold. Though it was only for a brief 24 hours, I was glad to have experienced a bit of Brussels, spend some good quality time with my big brother (will never admit that again), and live to tell the tale.

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