I arrived three hours before check-in, and was informed I'd need to kill said hours doing anything other than being there. Fortunately, she asked if I wanted some advice on where to go, which I happily accepted, but when she opened the map to guide me, she crinkled her brow and bit her cheek as if she was looking at it for the first time. Not knowing exactly what the tell me, she forewent (is that the correct term?) drawing me a specific path and, instead, just circled the entire area that comprised Central Brussels while saying, "I think the best thing to do is just walk around and experience the city." I should have figured I wouldn't receive inside advice from a girl wearing a name tag claiming she was "Spice Girl," but regardless, she didn't tell me what I want, what I really really want.
But though I've only had a brief taste of Brussels, I can actually see why she couldn't come up with anything. While I'm sure the city has a lot of character and idiosyncrasy, it doesn't reveal itself like other European cities. It lacks an Eiffel Tower to dominate its skyline, it's without an artfulness like Florence, and it doesn't exude a state of mind like the Scandinavian cities do. The architecture is a mixed bag, there doesn't seem to be a national language: most speak french (does anyone speak Flemish anymore?), and after spending two days here, I'm still not sure what the Belgian flag looks like because I've seen an assortment of different ones. Sure, there's a large atom structure on the outskirts of the city (that I'm eager to see, especially because you can go inside), but if a World's Fair relic automatically makes for an interesting city, then I guess Queens, New York qualifies (and trust me, it's not). That said, the street food (frites, waffles, among other things) is fantastic and probably the main thing that allows Brussels to shine. Though waitresses and street vendors may give you a funny look if you decline the "frite sauce," because, after all, who doesn't love mayonnaise on french fries. But, regardless, Brussels is the capital of the EU after all; I know there is more to it. And I look forward to seeing more of Brussels since I've barely gotten to know it, and I'm sure it'll prove itself unique.
(** By the way, I've never stayed at a hotel that provided shampoo that smelled exactly like the lobby. Another thing to cross off the bucket list).
However, what Spice Girl should have done was drawn a line to the nebulous left and told me to hop the train to Bruges. Coming into this trip, all I knew about Bruges was what I saw from the appropriately named Colin Farrell movie In Bruges. But after experiencing the city in person, the only question I can ask is why aren't all movies set in Bruges. Seriously. They could have shot Titanic in one of their pretty canals. Rocky could have fought Apollo in the middle of the Markt. And I'm not sure it's possible for LOL (starring Miley Cyrus) to be better, but their lol's would be more dignified if set against a Bruges background. Bruges has kept most of its medieval appeal intact. From the old buildings to the windy, cobble stoned streets that just beg for some horseshoe click-clock (and you bet its there), it feels as though Disney set this place up as "Medieval EuropeLand," except, ya know, they didn't and people actually live there. Also, artsy chocolate shops melt with antique stores, as well as many modern clothing stores and restaurants (I think they even have a a 3-Michelin star one), to give it a hip and unique feel. Plus, you know what the first thing I saw once I entered the city? A pelican nosediving into a canal. What? Yeah. You're instantly transported. There's not a lot to "do" there, but I easily could spend a week just wandering and taking it all in.
I'm probably the world's worst photographer (Seriously, not only do I have no eye, but my pics are especially shit since I use my crappy camera phone). Anyway, here are some pics of Bruges:
I took this...
From the top of this...
...Which I believe is called The Best Ass Work Out In Bruges. It's 300+ of these ...
...and somehow I didn't break my neck even though people were constantly walking in the opposite direction.
|I'm not sure what this is.|
|I swear I don't think these pics will be bad when I take them.|
|That's not a Godiva I'm shooting. It's the Subway. See?|
Off to Paris tomorrow...looking forward to my first time being there.