So I’m not normally very spontaneous. I love lists and planning to the extreme, and even though I try to be easygoing with my friends, I don’t always succeed… I partially blame Paris and the ridiculous amount of organization necessary to meet someone for dinner or drinks. Finding a place that’s not too far that accepts reservations or isn’t overly crowded and within everyone’s price range…it’s exhausting! Grocery shopping also requires way more planning here as stores aren’t open every day and have more limited hours than in the U.S. Plus, a trip to several different groceries or markets might be necessary before you can find everything on your list. But basically those are just excuses for me being ever-so-slightly OCD.
Last weekend, though, I had a great exercise in spontaneity when a group of us travelled to Brussels for our friend Jean’s 30th birthday. His wife called me a few days before to see if we were available for a surprise trip, and after a hectic first week of classes I was happy to leave Paris for a few days.
We drove to Brussels on Friday night after work. It’s around three hours from Paris, and Jean figured out where we were heading about two hours in. It was his first time in Belgium, so we made sure to taste as many of the local specialties as possible during the course of the weekend.
After struggling for a while to find breakfast on Saturday morning, we finally stumbled across this waffle truck. Hot waffles for 1.50 with the syrup already inside…they were delicious!
Luckily it wasn’t raining on Saturday, so we were able to walk around and see some of the sights, with plenty of stops along the way for the guys to taste a few Belgian beers, of course.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Sol that was advertising moules-frites (mussels and fries), one of Belgium’s specialty entrées. Most Americans don’t know that “French fries” were supposedly invented in Belgium! Apparently ignorant American and British soldiers tasted some during World War I and, as the locals speak French, started calling them French fries. Regardless of the etymology, it’s impossible to escape from Belgium without trying real frites.
I stayed away from the mussels as I’ve not quite made it that far in my quest to start liking seafood. Instead, I tried to have a light lunch and ordered a veggie burger.
As you can see, it ended up not being light at all as the “burger” was made of a fried potato cake…I learned my lesson about ordering a veggie burger without knowing exactly what to expect! I was disappointed with my meal, but my friends said that the mussels were delicious.
After spending the afternoon walking, shopping, and beer tasting, we went back to freshen up quickly before going out to celebrate Jean’s 30th. After a dinner of fries at a fast-food stand, we went to the Delirium beer bar which has hundreds of different beers available. I’m not really a beer fan, but even I was impressed by the selection! Add a bottle of champagne in the Grande Place and a visit to a techno club, and Jean’s birthday was a success.
We got a late start on Sunday and the weather was back to freezing wind and rain, so we just had a nice lunch and did a bit of chocolate shopping (no photos allowed) before heading back to Paris.
The weekend passed so quickly, but it was a great break from Paris…even though I never want to see another
French fry again!