|When we got to Brussels we checked into our hotel room, which was much cheaper and much nicer than our hotel in Paris. We took long showers in the shower that drained, had a curtain AND a holder, and spent the first night in recooperating from the last five days of constant running.
The next morning we got up early to get a good start on our day of shopping. We knew that Brussels was known for its shopping, we just needed to figure out where to go.
We wandered around for the longest time, finding lots of overpriced art galleries and antique stores, and getting slightly depressed. Was this all that Brussels had to offer? If so, what were we going to do here for three days?
Feeling a bit pouty, we decided to stop in a small cafe called Le Perroquet (The Parokeet) for lunch. We had the BEST sandwiches of our lives and had pulled out our map to figure out a game plan when the gentleman at the next table spoke up.
He had an American accent, but obviously had fooled us the entire time into thinking he was French, as he had been carrying on conversation with the waitress the whole meal in perfect French. He told us he didn't want to intrude, but if we needed any help he would be more than willing to share information about the city.
We of course jumped at the chance, since we really knew absolutely nothing about what we were doing and how to best take advantage of this charming little city.
We ended up talking to James Day for a good half hour. This guy was amazing: American born, got his undergrad from Harvard, masters in Psychology and Theology at Yale, and went on to Oxford to get his doctorate. He speaks four languages fluently, is an ordained and practicing minister, and teaches psychology at the University of Brussels. He is married to a German woman, and his kids speak German, English, and take their music lessons in Dutch. For what its worth. (That's what he said after he told us his incredible life story.)
He also gave us a thorough history of the city, the surrounding area, and the country of Belgium, and made us pretty much fall in love with the city as much as he had. He told us where all the best shopping was, which museums to see, what to expect from the nightlife. And as we were leaving he gave us his home phone number in case we needed anything else.
Its times like those that you really rekindle your faith in the human race. James Day had made our day. (Oooh, no pun intended, really.)
So we went on to do some great shopping, stopped for a Belgian waffle (I can't even explain how delicious they are) and walked back to our hotel feeling very content. We came back and had a movie night at the hotel, as the BBC channels were playing cheesy American movies that we had to admit we missed just a little.
The next day Sonja took a day trip to Bruge; I stayed in Brussels to finish some shopping. We met up again after dinner and got ready to go out. We decided to try an Irish pub that the guy at a chocolate shop had recommended to me. Success! It was so fun. Lots of English people crammed into this little pub, fun bartenders, and great live music.
As I was ordering a drink, a guy had approached Sonja and started conversation. When I came back to sit down he introduced himself (his name was Sebastiaan) and told me what he had just told Sonja: he was moving to America in a few months to work in the hotel industry and wondered what we knew about California. We told him the little bit we knew. He was with a group of people, but for some reason we just kept finding things to talk about. At one point he went back to the group, but he brought his friend back to introduce to us and the four of us talked the rest of the night. For whatever reason, Sebstiaan and I had this weird and wonderful chemistry and by the end of the night I decided that he was one of the most fascinating young people I've ever met. It's funny, the people you meet, how you meet them, and how they impact you. Meeting Sebastiaan made me realize that it is possible to meet someone right now who I could completely connect with and be excited by just by learning about their personalities, beliefs, and experiences.
It's a very powerful realization.
So, Brussels: Chocolate, waffels, shopping, epiphanies about relationships. A girl really can't ask for more. Brussels gets my vote any day.