Saturday 16th: Sis visiting and nightlife at Havana club
This semester my sister is studying in Rotterdam, Holland, and as had already been there for a month she wanted to come and visit as soon as we had gotten Carina's apartment in order, so around noon we went down to meet her at Brussels Central station. To show her the sights we did another tour of Grand Place and the surrounding area, but we also checked out Place de St.Catherine and Place de St.Gery where none of us had been before. Also we tried taking the bus back to Carina's place, which due to all the cobblestones was a horribly bumpy ride. We were meeting the Americans and some more BSIS students out a bit later, so after a trip to SuperGB where I stocked up on beer that I would bring back to Norway we readied ourselves to go out and tried a couple of the new beers that I had bought. When ready we got ourselves a cab and went to pick up Keisha (from Bahamas) and then straight to Havana Club where we met up with Mari (from Japan) and a bunch of Americans and had a blast! However the place was too packed so after a while we walked over to see some more bars in the area around Grand Place. There were lots actually, but most were the really awful tourist-trap kinds of places so it was a bad call to go there.
Sunday 17th: Car free day and Hanne's birthday
The next day was my sisters birthday, so we treated her to lunch at Chao, the excellent Thai-place we found the other day. While eating we noticed that everything was really quiet, which was due to it beeing the once a year Car-free day in Brussels, so there were almost no one driving around at all in the entire city! When walking around looking for a cab to get my sister to the train-station, we also noticed that people had moved couches and BBQ's out in the middle of the roads and were sitter there enjoying the nice weather. Even on the major roads there were almost no traffic other than a few buses and taxis, so we actually had a hard time finding one, but it worked out just in time. It is quite amazing for such a big city to be so quiet, with almost none of the constant background noise you're so used to. Because of this Carina and I took a long walk around the Ixelles area and really enjoyed the day ourselves, before getting some pittas for dinner from one of the many Fritterias around. While the food is good in most, they don't look very sanitary compared to Norwegian standards, and this one probably wasn't as Carina came down with something during the night so other than going to an introduction meeting at her school we spent the rest of the next day relaxing inside.
Tuesday 19th: Daytrip to Antwerp
While Carina was still not feeling her best, we had planned on going to Antwerp one of these days and this day seemed as good as any, so in the morning we headed down to Brussels Central to catch a northbound train. The trip took just over an hour from we left home, so we got there quite early and headed into the shopping area where Carina insisted on checking out almost all the clothing stores. I went along with it as Antwerp is also the location of the Guylian Cafè that specializes in treats based on Guylian brand chocolates, so in return I insisted that we had to stop by for a snack and a cup of hot chocolate. Yum!
We then we went through some more stores until we arrived at Grote Markt, the main city square, where we sat down at a pizzeria for dinner. After dinner we walked around checking out some the city sights for a while, amongst them Steen castle by the river as well as several medieval churches, before it was time to catch a train back to Brussels and go home. On our way back to the train station we stopped by H&M to buy a few of the things Carina had been looking for, but since the store was closing they actually threw us out instead of helping us find the correct size! It's shocking how bad some people are at basic customer treatment...
A trip with the amount of walking that we did obviously didn't make Carina feel any better than she did in the morning, so to remedy that we stayed inside all of Wednesday relaxing and watching TV-series. We also had our first home-prepared meal in the apartment since we moved in: boxed spaghetti.
Thursday 21st: Atomium, Galleries St. Hubert and a night out
After spending all of yesterday inside Carina was finally feeling better so we wanted to explore a bit more of Brussels, so in the morning we caught the Metro all the way to the other end of the city to see Atomium, a 103 meter tall magnification of an iron-atom built for the 1958 World's Fair and one of Brussels major landmarks.
It's quite a sight, but besides the view from the top the exhibition inside was a tourist trap and not worth the time or effort, especially if there is a line.
Afterwards we headed back downtown and walked through the shopping street Rue Nueve on our way to the splendid Saints Michel et Gudule gothic cathedral, before heading over to Grand Place through the oldest shopping mall in Europe, Galleries St. Hubert. At Grand Place we met up with and had a few beers with my parents and my sister who had come to visit us while they were in the area on a wine-tour of the Mosel valley. We gave them a few pointers on what they should check out downtown while Carina and I went back to her apartment to freshen up and get dressed for dinner, which all of us enjoyed together at the Aux Armes de Bruxelles restaurant, supposedly one of the better places to eat in downtown Brussels.
After dinner my family went back to their hotel, while Carina and I met up with newly arrived Jordan at Grand Place, and caught a taxi with him to the bar La Phere in Ixelles where most of Carina classmates were hanging out as there was a BSIS get-together there. The others had been there for a while already and wanted to check out some other places, so we joined the guys from the other night as well as newcomers Chris, Peter and Justin (all americans), british Lucy and Aoufe from Ireland in walked over to The Waff which is just by Carina's apartment. There we found some excellent spots on the roof terrace there and had a great night out with more of the excellent Belgian beers!
Friday 22nd: Last day in Brussels
After I have now stayed with Carina in Belgium the past two weeks, yesterday was the final day of both my stay and my family's visit, so we started out by meeting them downtown for lunch, and ended up at a nice Italian restaurant at Place St.Catherine. After saying goodbye to them, Carina and I took another stroll around the city to shop all the stuff I wanted to bring home with me, including lots of chocolates, beers and waffles. After packing all my bags (again), we went out for dinner at the restaurant Enigma right next door, and it was simply amazing! The food was really great, the decor way cool and the service excellent, and it was still quite cheap! Without a doubt the best restaurant I've been to for its price range at ~15-20 per person.
And that experience concludes my first visit to Brussels, but what a great couple of weeks it has been! I got the chance to enjoy plenty of my favorite Belgian chocolates Cotè d'Or and Guylian, and also to discover several new ones like GoDiva, Jacques, Neuhaus, NewTree and Galler. I've also been wallowing in chocolate covered Belgian waffles and I've tried more than 40 new kinds of Belgian beer! My absolute new favorites are the range of wild-fermented Lambics, and then especially Lindemans Faro and Gueze, but also other special kinds like the Chimay trappist and abbeys Leffe and Grimbergen. Carina also really liked Hoegaarden Blanche, a type of white beer, and the blonde ale Duvel, both of which have less particular but more refreshing tastes.
But all good things must come to an end, so this morning I caught the train to the airport, and after the seemingly never-ending walk through along the rollers of Brussels International Airport, I got on my flight back to Norway with a suitcase full of Belgian specialties, ready to settle down in my new apartment in Oslo and get started in my first real job. That too will be an experience I guess, so we'll see how it turns out :-)