Thursday, May 15, 2014

Belgium: So Many Chocolatiers, So Little Time

The journey from Paris to Brussels, Belgium was needlessly arduous. I KNOW there is a train that goes directly from Paris to Brussels, but the lady we made our reservations with obstinately disagreed and booked us on THREE different connections. A journey that should have taken 2 hours took 4. Astrid Loomans, another friend from my North Carolina days, mentioned we could probably stay with her family when we traveled to Belgium and the Loomans family was gracious enough to take Kylie and me in for the weekend. Astrid's older brother, Thomas, picked us up at the station. To say he looked different is an understatement. I did NOT recognize him in the slightest. 
It was so strange to stay in a real house again! It was the only place I've stayed since being in Europe that reminded me of American homes. Kylie and I shared Astrid's room and bathroom and I giggled at Astrid's old Twilight series books. I couldn't resist opening her old St. David's yearbooks and reminiscing on inside jokes that have long since died. 
Another benefit of staying with the Loomans? REAL HOMECOOKED FOOD. Bie is a genius in the kitchen and I don't even think I ate that well in Italy! On our first evening we had some amazing spaghetti, then a shrimp curry on the second, and for a final supper she made homemade pizzas. 
The Loomans dwell in Brussels and Bie was kind enough to drive us to the train station on our second day to travel to Bruges. The train was delayed 41 minutes, but we eventually figured it out and went to one of the quaintest little towns. We meandered in and out of shops selling lace and one-of-a-kind shoes and made a point to step foot into every chocolate store we passed. I only bought something in three of them! And stole something from one. It was completely on accident, but after agonizing over which chocolate bar to buy we decided to come back later when we had cleared our heads with some frites. But then I absentmindedly walked out of the shop with the candy bar in question still in my hand. I didn't realize until we were nearly a block away and I shouted an expletive, had sudden visions of deportation, and fled back into the shop to discretely return the proof of my criminal activity.  
After this close call, we found the town square rife with a festival of some kind. We avoided the rides, but made a beeline for the frites stand. Heaven on a mini fork! 
The amount of shopping that occurred during the day trip to Bruges is almost appalling. And the following day wasn't much better for our bank accounts. We slept in and then Bie drove us to the nearby town of Leuven where we continued our shopping spree and tasted an inordinate cheese cubes at an outdoor market. I bought some interesting trousers at H&M and fell in love with the European version of Target, Hema. 
We left the Loomans on Easter Sunday morning, bound for Amsterdam, with freshly laundered clothing, full bellies, and well-rested spirits. 
A Very Lucky Girl fell in love with suburban Belgium. 

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