Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bonjour Brussels

Last week I decided not to post because I was about to take the GRE. Having completed that on Friday, I now have a bit more time to write. Two major things:

1.  Because there were no testing centers in the Netherlands open for the day that I wanted, I had to travel to Brussels, Belgium to take the GRE. As such, my mother and I took a short road trip (only 2 hours) to the capital of the European Union where we stayed for a little over two days.

2. Tomorrow, I embark on the most anticipated leg of this eight month American sabbatical—I will finally fly to Lima, Peru.

To start, Brussels. On the way to our hotel, we accidentally got off the highway and ventured into the city center. Tall, glass-encased edifices stoically pressed up against the streets, demanding respect. All of the people bustling in and out of them looked very important. We were in the government district, surrounded by the leaders of the EU as they were working diligently towards solutions within these buildings. I couldn't help but feel that momentous decisions were being made right next to me.

The rest of our adventures in Brussels were navigated by foot and metro. We meandered through the history-laden streets, admiring the mixture of French and Dutch and even some Spanish-style architecture of the cathedrals, houses, and government buildings erected long ago. Although the cold froze our noses and ears, the light flurries of snow bestowed a magical quality upon the Belgian capital.

We happened upon an antiques market that whispered of the past, an anachronistic warehouse of wonders. I could practically hear the voices of the men and women hosting dinner parties under the crystal chandeliers, smell the ink and tobacco smoke that filled the rooms as they sat at their desks and perused their bookshelves, see the banalities and the scandals that the pictures innocently hanging on the wall witnessed silently in their stolid beauty. Twas a thing of mystery and a thing of beauty, much like the city of Brussels itself.

One of the most incredible sights in the city is the Grote Markt (Great/Big Market), a square surrounded by majestic buildings of government and commerce. Impossible to render its beauty through a description, the Grote Markt might best be imagined through the captures of a camera.

And of course, I would be remiss not to mention our encounters with the famous chocolates of Belgium. All of the stores had displays of chocolate bunnies and ducks, ready for the spring to show its refreshing face. My mother and I stopped into a little café where we drank the best hot chocolate I have ever had the pleasure of drinking. So rich, so thick, so delicious it was that we went back the next day to delight in its goodness again. If you want to feel like Willy Wonka, Belgium is your destination.

The window of one of the many chocolate shops. The bunny is solid chocolate!

Godiva, a Belgian original
Now we have returned from Belgium and are furiously preparing to head for Peru. My mom and I will fly into Lima, then to Cusco a few days later. From a town near Cusco, we will embark on a guided tour of the Incan Trail, a four day camping and hiking trek that leads to the infamous Machu Picchu. Finally, we will return to Lima. My mom will depart, and I will settle in for the semester. Since we will be hiking the Incan Trail around this time next week, the next blog post will probably be delayed until two weeks from now. Bon Voyage!

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