Yesterday I took a day trip into Brussels. Just the fact that I live in the Netherlands and can take a day trip to another country where they speak another language is still a little unbelievable. How is this my life? Really?
To ensure that I wouldn’t change my mind last minute, I’d purchased the train ticket in advance online and poured over the guide book to have a clear idea of the things I wanted to see and places I wanted to go. At 7am I left the apartment and caught the 300 bus to Schiphol where I’d catch the train. Altogether, traveling took just under four hours which could have been cut to three had I not left home so early to make sure I got to the train station in time, etc.
The journey South was nice though overcast and wet. It was great to get a glimpse of the towns between Amsterdam and Brussels: The Hague, Rotterdam, Antwerp. Saw a lot of grass, some sheep, and a few windmills. I arrived in Brussels close to 11am, stepped off the train, out of the station, and into the cold. After getting oriented, I started walking toward Grand’Place which was the beginning of a walking map I’d downloaded online. Grand’Place is a beautiful square surrounded by large, ornate buildings which used to house everything from the king to a brewery. The journey continued through small side streets and major thoroughfares and the map nicely described the high points along the way.
My walk ended at Brewery Cantillon, the last traditional family-run brewery in Belgium. The exterior was very unassuming, but walking in was a step back in time. Not a much has changed at the brewery since it began operating almost 100 years ago. For 6 euro I got a small pamphlet with a numbered walking tour through the brewery and their brewing process. Cantillon makes a traditional lambic beer. At the end of the tour there is a tasting of three beers: one Geuze which is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old brews and two Krieks which have fruit added during the fermentation process (one was cherry the other raspberry). This was definitely the highlight of the trip.
I left the brewery around 1:00 and backtracked toward the Royal Palace and Upper Town. Instead of paying close attention to the map I just kind of wandered my way back taking small side streets and taking in the sights. I saw Manneken Pis which is a must-do, though less than impressive, and a few of the historic churches. Royal Palace isn’t much to see after starting at Grand’Place, but it sits above Lower Town (go figure) and has a beautiful view from Mont des Arts. From there I walked back to Lower Town and stumbled across Delirium Tremens Cafe. And what do you do when you find a one-of-a-kind bar? You go inside and sample their product. So I did. At 8.5% abv just one Delirium Tremens was plenty.
Finally, it was time to make my way back to Centraal Station making one last stop for a waffle from a truck parked just outside. All in all the trip was a good one. It was nice to have a full day planned and it didn’t cost much. I would certainly go back to Brussels (still have to sample the chocolate and frites) though it would be nice to have someone to pal around with the next time. In fact, traveling alone is something I am learning how to do. It’s a different experience when there isn’t someone along for the journey to talk to or pull you in a direction you might not go otherwise. It also tends to provide a different perspective on the things you do or see. But I’m okay with flying solo and having these experiences to myself. This year is going to be a great opportunity to learn more about myself and to grow. I’m looking forward to it, just taking a little time to adjust.
Now I’m thinking about where I should go for my next day trip. Antwerp, Germany, North Netherlands? So many possibilities. But for today: laundry, packing, bike ride around Amstelveen, flight to London. Ready, set, go!