The Belgium Experience

       
                                        B   E   L   G   I   U   M








B E L G I U M               B E L G I U M        B E L G I U M           B E L G I U M


When I think of Belgium I think most of all of my Belgium friend Philip who invited me to visit him a few months after we met in Alaska. After landing in Amsterdam on a trans Atlantic flight I took a train into Antwerp and met Philip at a cafe where we drank trappist beers and talked about Belgium.

Philip gave me a grand tour of his country during my nine day visit. From the moment we met in Antwerp to our farewell in Brussels I couldn't have asked for a better tour guide than wonderful Philip.

If you ever find yourself in Belgium you won't be disappointed. I'm here to share all the great things to do in Belgium a small country known for producing the best tasting chocolate in the world.







                                                             Belgian Chocolates 




Mmmmmmh chocolate chocolate everywhere and all of it tastes so delicious. It's no wonder that Belgians make chocolate a daily indulgence. No matter where you go in Belgium you're bound to find chocolate in all flavors, shapes, and sizes. But let's put chocolate on hold for now and let me tell you about one of Europe's greatest cities; Brussels.

Brussels is the kind of city that has varying contrasts. There are the fashionable Audrey Hepburn types who sip coffee with grace in the Grand Place and the 20 somethings who text while walking the cobblestone lanes. This is a city of world class architecture, art nouveau, not to miss museums, and splendid shopping. The center of Brussels consists of the Lower Town which has the famous Grand Place and the Upper Town is where wide boulevards mix with monumental buildings as well as government headquarters and the Belgian parliament. No where else in Belgium is business, culture and fashion so much alive than in Brussels. 

The comic strip culture in Brussels is a well known thing. The city has a multitude of comic book shops to choose from and several walls in the city center feature well known comic strip characters. It's no secret that Belgian is known as home of the comic strip.

Waffles to Belgians are what crepes are to the French. There are waffles shops everywhere but one of the oldest and best places for delicious waffles is Le Funambule Waffles located at Rue de l'etuve 42. Don't leave Brussels without trying waffles. You won't be disappointed.

Whether you're visiting Brussels in the height of summer season or the shorter days of fall a side trip to the North Sea is where you'll find city dwellers de-stressing and breathing the fine salt air. Known as Western Flanders this area of Belgium has 66 kilometers of coastline. Ostende which was once the seaside resort of the aristocrats is a fishing center. It has the Albert I Promenade where a cluster of restaurants and shops overlook the wide beach and the sea full of surfers. The small resort town of Koksidge has the highest dunes on the North Sea and Sim-Idesbald is a haven for art lovers.

Along the Belgian coast are campgrounds, high rise apartments, hotels, and villas. A tram connects several towns along the coast making it easier to navigate from town to town. The neighboring country of France has a ferry departing daily from Calais, France to England. So in one day you can experience being in three different countries.

The romantic town of Bruges attracts thousands of people each year to see its medieval splendor. Bruges is blessed with art museums, narrow canals, lovely squares, and heavenly Flander food. A meal of mussels and pomme frites is a must when in Bruges. I remember how much Philip and I enjoyed our delicious lunch sitting in an open square. The waiter brought us a bucket of steamed mussels in a white wine broth accompanied with pommes frites (french fries). In Belgium it's a tradition to dip pommes frites (french fries) in a big dollop of mayonnaise. 

The Belgians love their bicycles  and almost every Belgian owns one. Travel by bicycle is easy and it also burns calories from eating chocolate and waffles. Many towns in Belgian provide special lanes for for bike travel.

Gent is a popular town to visit and is known for the fortress of the Counts of Flanders and St Bavo's Cathedral. Many visitors head to St. Michales Bridge for views of the city's three towers and to the district of Graslei to see the guild houses. For nighlife there are dance clubs, jazz cafes, lively brasseries and opera productions.

The Ardennes region of Belgium was my last stop in Belgium before heading back to Brussels. Mostly a French speaking part of Belgium the Ardennes are a hilly terrain where biking and hiking can fully be enjoyed. The Meuse River is good for boating and is a nice way to enjoy views of the cliffs and valleys. A stay at a quaint little inn adds to the charm of a few days in the Ardennes. The historic city of Namur known for the Citadel (fortress) is one of the regions top attractions. 

Between the bicycling and swimming, beer drinking and eating, sightseeing and learning Flemish my nine days in Belgium went by quickly. I fell in love with Belgium and made up my mind that someday I'd return and find a job in Belgium once I mastered Flemish or French. The Belgians have every right to display pride because some of the best things in life come from Belgium. 

I thank you Philip for sharing your Belgium with me.


WHEN IN BELGIUM, DO AS THE BELGIANS DO:

Take a monastery brew tour and drink some of the best tasting beer in the universe.

Buy a box of chocolates and indulge. (Pralines) are one of the top sellers. 
Leoninda's, Neuhaus, and Pierre Marcolini are popular chocolate shops.

Have some waffles for breakfast. The Belgians love their waffles.

Pommes Frites stands can be found all over Belgium. They're fun to dip in different sauces like Green Goddess , Aioli, or Miso-Musturd. Mayonnaise is often the preferred choice. Belgium fries are unique because they're fried twice.

Enjoy a drive through the countryside and chat with the locals at a pub.


French vs Flemish

It's a good idea to know a few words in French and Flemish when traveling through Belgium

French:                                                   Flemish:

Hello: Bonjour                                         Hello: Hallo!
Goodbye: Au Revoir                               Goodbye: Varwell
Please: S'il vous plait                               Thank You: Dank uwel
Thank You: Merci                                   Please: Alstublief
 

Adrianna (Travel World)




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