Greetings from the finally 21 year old!!!!!! Time for me to recap my amazing birthday weekend, spent in Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium. Saturday morning rolled around and a large group of us met at the LLN train station to depart for the school sponsored day trip to Brussels. It takes about 45 minutes to get to Brussels from Louvain-la-Neuve, so we got in by late morning and visited a structure/museum called the Atomium. For lack of a better explanation, here is what the Atomium is, according to Wikipedia: The Atomium is a building in Brussels originally constructed for Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, it stands 102 m tall. It’s basically this giant metal structure that looks like an atom with a museum inside of it. We went to the top of it which is a giant 360 degree panorama of the entire city, what a sight! Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy, so the view was still fabulous, but I can only imagine what it would look like on a clear day. After that tour we had some free time for lunch so our little group went on our way to check into our hostel for the night. This weekend I traveled with Paul, English speaking Canadians Taylor and Jenna, French speaking Canadian Marc, Swedish gentleman Tobias, and Anisa the German!! We were an eclectic group and I loved every minute of it. So we checked into our flat for the night which was a bit outside of the main area of the city and then made our way back to the Grand Place downtown.
We then began our afternoon walking tour of the city. We found it easier to break away from the large group, so we mapped out a walking tour and spent a few hours discovering the city. Brussels is gorgeous! And so so underrated. I marveled at the Grand Place for a solid half hour because it is just so overwhelmingly beautiful, historical, and intricate. A short walk away I had my first Belgian Waffle! It did not disappoint; I highly recommend one if you enjoy waffles and a copious amount of sugar. Manneken Pis was another few steps away from the Grand Place. In the words of Wikipedia: Manneken Pis [ˌmɑnəkə ˈpɪs], is a famous Brussels landmark. It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. It was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618 or 1619. This thing is soo anticlimactic it’s actually comical. It is such a small little statue!! He was also dressed up in a funky little outfit in honor of Carnaval which is a celebration that takes place around Europe around Easter time. We wound out way through more cobblestone streets and found the Royal Palace and Cathedral, which were both obviously stunning. The one thing I am amazed by time after time is the amount of detail in European architecture. And to think how long ago these structures were built makes it even more impressive. We found our way past City Hall and another famous Cathedral and then to the world famous Delirium Cafe.
Once again Wikipedia does a good job with the description of this landmark: Délirium Café is a bar in Brussels, Belgium, known for its long beer list, standing at 2,004 different brands in January 2004 as recorded in the The Guinness Book of Records. On offer are beers from over 60 countries, including many Belgian beers. This place was overwhelmingly cool. There were so many people in every nook and cranny of the cozy bar with loud music and laughs. Basically it was just a fun place to have a drink and soak in some authentic atmosphere. Dinner consisted of “mussels in Brussels” and then we found our way to a sports bar where we enjoyed live music, played card games, and got to know each other more. My new friends are so genuine, thoughtful, down to earth, smart and interesting it is truly a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to get to know them all. I would have never imagined being friends with people from across the world and having so much in common. We ended up walking home which was a bit of a trek, but it was a beautifully lit walk with more buildings and fancy traffic circles so we had a nice late night stroll. It was a great night before the night before my birthday. Haha.
Sunday morning we woke up laughing about the night before and got on the train to Antwerp. Fun fact via Jenna: The Antwerp train station is on the list of top 12 most beautiful train stations in Europe. And I believe that considering it was basically a royal palace. After obtaining about 50 different maps from the friendly info guy, we found our hostel and began our next tour. Antwerp is home to the second largest port in Europe, so it is on a large river. It is a quaint yet impressive city with a large cathedral and clock tower but many side roads with cobblestones and colorful buildings. We walked through the central square and down the promenade along the river, through a mid-evil castle (casual) and to a museum called the Mas. It is a modern looking building with a 360 panorama view of the city on the roof. We were so lucky to have a sunny day because we had a great view of the port and the rest of the city. We made our way down through the rest of the museum exhibits and then it was time for my night before my birthday celebrations to begin!
A lot of things were closed because of the Sunday night, but we found this awesome bar tucked away in a historic square that had about 5 other people in it. So we made ourselves at home and brought out the card games. This was definitely one of those “you had to be there” moments so I will just say I have not laughed so hard in such a long time. We had the most refreshing time just goofing off in this old, rustic bar, talking to the bartender, making jokes and enjoying fabulous Belgian beer. Afterwards, we found dinner at a cozy Italian restaurant, which was absolutely perfect for me (pizza of course). We proceeded to make a bar out of a convenient store, loiter in an alleyway, watch Anisa make friends with the Police, and finally found a sports bar where they were playing the Super Bowl. Naturally, I asked every single person in the bar where they were from and why they were watching the game, told anyone who would listen that it was my birthday at midnight, and was so happy to see the Meadowland stadium on TV! I rang in the 12:00 hour with a smile on my face and we finished watching the first quarter of the game. We made it back to the hostel and before I knew it it was actually the day of my birthday! We kicked off the morning with some mimosas– these people are too good to me. We explored Chinatown at 11am and then finally got back on the train to Brussels and then to LLN. Pure exhaustion.
After a much needed shower and nap, I had a wonderful dinner out with the gang at my favorite little cafe in LLN and had me some lava cake with a sparkler in it! SO– huuuuge shout out to every single person I have met here, who made my 21st so very special, who went out of their way to send me well wishes, and who made me one happy birthday girl. I enjoyed every second of this weekend and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Now that it’s Tuesday, I have to return to reality for a few days, but by Friday we will be onto our next adventure!! 🙂