People often whinge about teachers getting long holidays and one such break in the schedule is Easter. While a long weekend is the most a lot of people can hope for, us lucky (?) enough to teach for a living often get two weeks or something like that.
As an ESL teacher holidays like this are the best opportunity to get out and explore new places. Although I’d be flying back to England for a stag do on Easter weekend, I decided to leave Durango a few days early and go back to the UK via a country I’d never been before: Belgium.
It’s no secret that my appetite often dictates where I visit and although the idea of waffles, chocolate and fries didn’t appeal all that much to me, a country with a reputation for some of the best beer in the world certainly did. That’s all the convincing I needed, and a two night stay in Brussels was swiftly booked!
I arrived in the late afternoon and, having been told by many people that Bruges and Gent were both better places, I decided to try and see the city in one evening. I set out with a lad from Kyrgyzstan who I met in the hostel and jumped on a tram to the Grote Markt (Grand Place) where it seemed the main sights were to be seen.
As per usual I had very little intention of actually setting foot in any of the museums, the town hall or any of the other fancy buildings around, so I settled for a few pictures before moving on. Besides, we were getting hungry by this point and I was gagging for a beer too. When in Brussels and all that.
Before getting our feed on however we made a quick detour round the corner to see what is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the main sights in Brussels: Manneken Pis. In layman’s terms, this is essentially a tiny statue of a little kid taking a slash. No, me neither.
I had visions of beating away crowds just to get that perfect picture spot similar to Kinkakuji in Kyoto or Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, so it was a pleasant surprise to find the statue fairly quiet. I imagine the initial impressions of many people are something along the lines of “Is that it?” but having been told not to expect much I wasn’t particularly underwhelmed!
Speaking of underwhelmed, it was time for food.
As I said before, I’ve always followed my stomach when it comes to travelling (see Osaka, Hakodate and Sapporo!), but seemingly for many others this isn’t the case. I’m more than happy to splash a bit of extra cash if it means getting a good quality meal instead of some cheap shit, however my new friend wasn’t as keen and just wanted a cheap fill. Not a criticism – I suppose everyone’s got different budgets.
Despite having been told to avoid places around the Grote Markt for food as it was low quality and aimed at tourists, we found ourselves in a place where we got three courses for €12.50. I opted for the moules et frites (mussels and chips!) as it was a local speciality and it was solid if not unspectacular. Ah well, you get what you pay for.
Disappointed but undeterred (and with a new vow to myself to never compromise when it comes to food), we parted ways and I set out in search of waffles.
It wasn’t long before I stumbled on a window with what must have been over 20 different types on display and I just couldn’t resist. I shelled out €5.50 for a mixed fruit and white chocolate waffle which really hit the spot
Unfortunately it was served with one of those flimsy little plastic forks you get in English chippies and was something of a struggle to eat, with white chocolate going all over my face like a small child. Still, totally worth it.
I wound down the night with a visit to a few bars to watch Belgium turn over Saudi Arabia in an international friendly whilst sampling the local specialities. More on that at a later date. All I’ll say is that 8.5% beer is more effective than any sleeping pill.