Mussels in Brussels – Day One

After a week of nasty exams, the truth came crashing down; my Erasmus semester at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy was over. This was kind of bittersweet. It meant no more horrible grammar lessons with patronising, evil French lady who petrified me more than a handshake with my former school headteacher (all Kennet pupils will know what I mean), and no more of the daily forty minute walk to uni at 8 in the morning in the bitter cold (not good for my lazy/ “I hate mornings” personality). However, these are quite possibly the only things I won’t miss about my time here. This semester has without a doubt been my best so far since embarking on my degree course, I will obviously miss Tuesday nights at “The Love Boat”, and I have made some lifelong friends from not just England and France, but all over Europe.

Anyway, the best part is I’m only half way through my year abroad, and even better is that I have a six week gap until I repeat the gruelling uni enrolment process in Padova, Italy ( FYI definitely not complaining about the Italy part, just the crappy admin stuff). So I decided to take advantage of this and have temporarily become Bobbie the Traveller. First stop: Bruxelles.

Travelling on a budget, we decided to try out the bus company, Eurolines. This was efficient, cheap and – thanks to some consistently arguing Italians/Arabs – highly entertaining. Upon arrival we found the hostel and, from the front door, things didn’t look too promising….

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However, it was in a prime position (located just off the main square), and, at 20 euros a night, we could hardly complain.  After some struggles with duvets (this was extra difficult for my Wisconsin pal Zak who hadn’t had any experience with the duvet cover/duver combination before – apparently in America it’s an all-in-one sort of affair), we set off to explore the city. What I found surprising whilst wandering about the streets was that, despite being a capital city and obviously a popular tourist destination, they were practically empty. Perhaps this was due to the miserable weather… 

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Nevertheless, being English and naturally having low expectations weather-wise, I was completely un-phased and my mood could not be dampened – especially after a nutritious,wholesome meal of frites and chicken strips.

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(The next attempt at eating Belgian chips, however, wasn’t so successful, as they were so well fried that I cut my gum on one, had to leave the rest of the packet, and spent the next half an hour dabbing at my mouth with a tissue…)

Moving on, something I didn’t really know about Brussels before going there, was how much cool street art there is. Here’s some particularly impressive stuff by a Belgian artist called ROA, whose work can be found throughout Europe, London and the U.S (found this out through a friend/google). He’s keen on combining and contrasting nature with urban life, so chooses places such as derelict carparks, constructions sites, factories, or just generally remote urban areas to create murals of animals like these incredibly cute piggies:

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Here’s some other cool street art:

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And then there’s this one based on Brussels’ famous mannekin of le garcon qui fait pipi (the pissing boy):

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We then stumbled across a skate park with some brilliant views over the station, so played about and took photos there for a while (probably much to the disgust of people who actually wanted to use the park for its original purpose).

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Next stop was a super cool lift up to I can’t remember where, but it provided us with some pretty magical views over the whole of Brussels just as the sun was setting.

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In the evening we were in need of warming up so went for a “hopdog” (hotdog), served to us by a man who was slightly baffled as to why an English person, an American and two Italians were conversing in French…This also confused us as sentences merged between French, Italian, English and a tiny bit of Spanish (a boy from Peru staying in our hostel thought I was Portugese when he couldn’t make out what language I was speaking – think I’m having an identity crisis).

After a yummy dinner, we set off on a quest to find some Belgian beer. In the process we walked past many touristy restaurants and were offered all the moules we could ever desire. I didn’t even know Brussels were famous for mussels; it’s definitely not near the sea. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

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Having avoided being dragged into any fishy restaurants (I don’t even like mussels), we found our destination; Delirium – a bar which claims to have a list of over 2100 beers on offer. My choice seemed fairly obvious…

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But I stuck with something girly and peach flavoured. (Can’t remember the name, sorry)

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I was then permitted a brief boogie in an Irish bar by my fellow (more sensible) travellers, before calling it a night as we had an action packed day of being tourists yet to come…

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