Day Four (Mon. July 13, 2009)
It’s really quite impossible to get accustomed to things in Europe. People walk very slow, speak many different languages and use funny types of money... mostly coins. Time has really been the biggest obstacle of all. Monday (day 3) I woke up at 11:15 and decided to go up to the top floor to use the gym. It is difficult to find your correct pace in kilometers per hour on a treadmill. I settled on 10 km/hr and ran 3 km before I thought I might die. Too fast, too hot, too much running and not enough getting anywhere.
After my death jog, I walked outside around the hotel to cool off. Air conditioning is about as rare as deodorant around here. I made mental notes of cheap places to eat. After another awesome hurricane shower (where because the curtain isn't big enough I cover the entire bathroom with water) I met up with Deanna for lunch and touring the city. I was able to devour a tomato ham and mozz pannini (not like our version at all) with a bottle of mineral water for just under 5 euros (mineral water is the only kind you can get, and it sucks). Finally we made our way towards the parts of town that actually use street signs. Our destination was Mary, an infamous chocolate shop. We spent a majority of the walk wondering why most of the city was all fairly modern or new construction. Had all of the older stuff been destroyed by wars?
Just when we thought we were lost, "Mary" appeared like a beacon from heaven. As I walked into the shop, I was amazed at just how luxurious and famous this place was. The smell was so amazing, the chairs inside were draped in velvet and trimmed in gold. Some photos on the wall showed the famous clientele, notably, President George Dubya Bush and wife Laura. Apparently, Mary is also listed in the book "1,000 places to see before you die"… one down, 999 to go! I had no clue it was so famous! After I spent 10 euro on what seemed like a very small amount of chocolate, I had my first taste.
It was smooth and rich (but no too rich) and it was filled with what I swear was crème Brule. When Deanna and I stepped back onto the street we wondered how the woman in the shop was able to stay so thin with so many heavenly tastes surrounding her all day every day.
On our way back to the hotel, we walked through Le Botanique which is a pretty little garden complete with bronze and copper statues littered with beer cans and cigarette butts. In Europe, everyone smokes; it's probably the reason why they are all so skinny. Back at the hotel, I used the crazy Belgian keyboard to write about days 2 and 3, then it was reception time! Here we met up with Dan's coworkers and their significant others. We had a lot of fun, so much in fact, that as the reception ended, we spilled out onto the streets to enjoy some more Belgian Beer. Walking back down to the Grand Place at night was a bit different, less people but more street vendors. Odd. Anyway, we found another outdoor cafe (and they're allllll outdoor cafes) at the Grand Place and took in the beautiful and unexpected light show on Hotel de Ville. I could not have been more bummed about not bringing my camera. I NEVER go out without a camera, what was I thinking? Travel note: never go anywhere without a camera – you can see amazing things that you will want pictures of! Although the light show was amazing, it was matched up with an exceptionally gross experience when I had to use the bathroom. It smelled awful - like urine, and I found out why when I passed the urinal. It was literally full. Based on my evaluation of the city so far (as I write this on day 6) Brussels is that way: beautiful and disgusting all at the same time.