Brussels, Belgium - To Wake in The Midst of History

Alright it's the moment we've all been waiting for! The trip. Since it's 5:30am U.S. time, and I'm wide awake, let's get on with it shall we?

After a night of partial sleep on-board American flight 88 we landed into Brussels' National Airport and made our way through customs and immigration which seemed a lot less stringent than say London's Heathrow. It may also be that we appeared to be no threat to their little country as we gazed upon our new surroundings with the joys of our inner child.

Once approved by authorities; that we're one of the 'good Americans' we walked out of the designated international space and into Brussels where our lovely and beautiful guide and best friend Sarah awaited us with open arms. "Bonjour" indeed, we were here, here in the midst of history, center of world politics, a city over ten centuries old, and here was Shan & Liv ready to become apart of it. Way cool.... "c'est chouette". This is the city that was described by Romans as the city "on which the sun does not set." A place where languages like Dutch, French and English collide in an international explosion. Where it's not uncommon to eat frites (french fries), waffles & beer all in the same day. If this is not heaven, it's darn freaking close. Sign me up, because I knew in that moment- I loved Brussels.

Our first stop after a quick shower back at Sarah's apartment was the Cinquantenaire Triumphal Arch. As Sarah explained it's sort of a replica of Paris's Arc Triomphe. In fact almost every city has one of these celebratory arches in some fashion, which really puts my hometown in America lagging behind our European counterparts. The arch was erected in 1905 and it currently houses the Royal Military Museum.

I don't think we could completely grasp both then and now the complete historical significance of standing next to these WWII airplanes and tanks. To take our place in all this, in a country which would have been at the center of so many of the world's biggest military moments that shaped mankind's history; and then which would ultimately bring us there that day.

The museum was oddly quiet. One school had a field trip, but in contrast to much of the rest of Europe with its running and bustling, this place; while at the center of Brussels, seemed secluded and quiet... well, at least until we got there.

At first glance it appeared Brussels was much more westernized than say even London. The kids wore trainers, brand-name clothing and often spoke in Franglais rather than one complete language. Vulgarities and cursing in French (as explained by Sarah) don't have the same tone as they do in English and often the teenagers would switch to English not realizing that when they say "This place is boring- it is total shit!" we Americans will turn and gasp in horror despite our own foul mouths.

It was at this point, in all this beauty, in all our wonder that Shannon turned to me and Sarah and said... "Do you know what this parking fence looks like?" (it was phallic) Of course I got her back when we were standing in front of an original Michelangelo inside of a 10th century church and whispered how the alter would be the undeniably the most amazing place to make love. She gasped. Apparently the French in us was coming out.

It was at this point Sarah who is a missionary had to duck out and do whatever it is missionaries do. I explained she had already converted me, but lo there was more evil on this earth she must deliver salvation to. Okay technically I think she had an English group meeting... but never the less she didn't leave us stranded. Since Sarah's flat was full with her roommate's parents she checked us into the Crowne Plaza in Brussels (a anniversary gift from her to us) where Shannon abruptly went into a mild coma from the lack of sleep.

Chez Moi? Indeed our new high-rise home had an incredible view on the 15th floor. Even more scary was the balcony door and no balcony. (No screen, or bars either to protect you.) On the window was a sticker (and this isn't a joke) that read in English how not to let your small children open the balcony door. In this moment I wondered how many babies had fell from these hotel windows before they applied the stickers.

Since Livvy was having a bit of a hard time of overcoming her fear of heights I woke Shan up and suggested we head down to the Grand Plas (Grand Place), the crown jewel of the city. 10th-14th century architecture that's survived world wars, history, weather and natural disaster. There really is no words to describe standing in the center of this plaza; as it's much too fairy tale like. You feel as though you're in a movie, the world is spinning. Indeed we were a long way from home, and part of us wondered if this was even real?

A short stroll a few blocks away was the second most notable landmark in Brussels, the Manneken Pis- a fountain/sculpture of a little fat boy urinating with his' little wee-wee from 1619. The Belgians dress him up like a Barbie doll several times a week, but on this occasion he was completely naked:

The fountain represents the peaceful coming together of the Dutch and French languages in Belgium.

It was right about then that Sarah texted us on our mobile and said she was ready to find the nearest pub and indulge in some fine Belgian beer. Indeed that's what we did next. On a quiet corner in Brussels we sat down to some fine brews, and great laughs. Despite Sarah's ordering in French the waiter picked up on all three of us being American and struck up a friendly conversation. This was the real Brussels. Conversation, friends, meeting new people. It's the part of life here in America we as a culture forgot about, and for the first time since we landed we finally felt like we were abroad and that it 'was real'. After several beers we scurried back to the hotel but not before Shan and Sarah found a DelHaize. What's DelHaize you ask? It's Food Lion in Belgium. Yep. Same company. Shan will of course be putting in a request to transfer because at this point we were in love with Brussels.

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