Friday, July 12, 2013

Brussels with Friends

After two months of hotels, hostels, and B&Bs, we decided to try Airbnb. Hotels always feel unnecessarily fancy, overpriced, and actually provide few services other than a place to sleep. With Airbnb we could get a kitchen and a more comfortable place for down time (i.e. to write blog posts).

We decided to rent a small apartment for 4 days near the center of Brussels. We showed up at the appointed location and time. Met the owners and got the keys. They were very friendly and helpful---pointing out the nearest grocery store and offered to answer any questions we had. The place was as-advertised. We were very excited.

Sadly, their alarm system malfunctioned the first morning of our stay. It kept going off and they were unable to disable it. Not their fault, but definitely a little stressful for us. They found us a hotel to stay in our second night, drove us there, and refunded us the entire stay. Can't complain about that!

We then moved to another Airbnb apartment for our final two nights in Brussels. Again, the owners responded quickly to our inquiry and were extremely welcoming. We loved it.
My gradschool friend, Nico, is from Belgium. He connected me with his father, Jorge, a resident of Brussels. Jorge offered to personally show us around town. After spending some time with Jorge, I now know where Nico got his hospitality and love of food. Jorge insisted on giving us a driving tour North of the city our first night. I later went back with the metro and took some photos:
The Atomium.

Brussels basilica.

He also pointed out the residence of the Belgian king, although I didn't get a picture.

He then took us out for an excellent Italian dinner. The food was wonderful.
The next morning he met us bright and early and took us on a 12 hour walking tour of the city. We saw beautiful guild halls from the 1600s, ate the famous frites, drank cherry (Kriek) beer, saw parks, goverment buildings, EU buildings, and had a delicious traditional Belgian dinner (mussels and carbonade flamande).

Cherry beer (Kriek) at "La Mort Subite" (the subtle death), which is an old bar that's been run by the same family for four generations.

Guild hall.

Art Noveau architecture.

King's office/palace.  It's good to be the king.
Frites! (Thick fries fried twice to make sure the vitamins are sealed in.)

The next day we met up with our friends Nels and Brianne to visit Antwerp. We went to the modern art museum. Brianne helped us understand what we were looking at.

We had more beer (Belgium is famous for beer) and walked around town.
An interesting public art display.

The Antwerp central train station is a really neat building. There are several floors of train tracks under the building.
On our last day Kate wasn't feeling well, so she stayed at our Airbnb place to rest while I toured the city on my own. I dropped in on the Google Brussels office (everyone was super friendly. Thanks!), and went back to a few sites to take pictures (included above).

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