Atomium, Brussels Belgium

Our train to Brussel's Centrale after an all night flight.

It wasn't the first time I boarded a plane to Brussels. Here we were sitting on yet another transatlantic flight, but this time we were far different people. This time I had a fairly decent command of the language, this time it felt familiar rather than foreign. So with moments to go before boarding American Airlines flight 172, our friend Sarah in Brussels emails me that she can't meet us at the airport, and apologizes profusely. I grin, and respond... "don't worry about it... I'm looking forward to the challenge." Indeed I was. In fact I had planned to live in Brussels for six weeks to go to school, but as fate would have it, I was not one of those chosen to receive the opportunity- but that's another story for another time.
The Automium

Interestingly upon landing in Brussels, we managed to our train without incident, on to the local metro and over to Stockel, a neighborhood in east Brussels. It's a rather odd experience being able to read and hear words which only last year you thought were beautiful but beyond your comprehension. After attempting to ring Sarah's door and getting no answer we walked across the street for a cappuccino and I broke out my toddler level French. Jet-lagged and fugly, I was on top of the world as we settled in on some cold steps outside her apartment like two homeless people. Not even a over-dose of crack cocaine would have made me happier that day.
The view from Sarah's third floor balcony, overlooking Stockel square.

That's when I saw her out of the corner of my eyes walking down the sidewalk. Like a Paris supermodel, it was Sarah and she looked beautiful. I nudged Shan to confirm things before I ran up to some strange woman to hug her. That's when Sarah glanced in my direction and did a double take. Instantly she laughed. We were back. Hugs, heartfelt embraces, over a year apart- but the three of us were back together again.

Just then this other gorgeous woman walked up, and instantly I knew who it was. It was Christie, Sarah's roomate whom we've been friends with online since last year  but never met in person. (she was in Paris then) Yet somehow it seemed as though we knew her all our lives. Our day was beginning, a world away from normality and for the first time in over a year things felt perfect. "Nothing to rearrange."

Liv, Christie, & Shan at the
Atomium.
Sarah was forced off to work while the three of us climbed to their third floor apartment to shower and shed our air-legs.   An hour later we were off to pickup our vacation where we left off last year. Just before we were about to leave the door rings. Christie turns to us and warns us not to be put off by how hot this guy is. Me and Shan look at each other. Sure enough, Pierre walks in as one of the finest specimens of the male persuasion I've ever had the opportunity to gaze upon. Then he greets us by kissing us on the cheek. Crap did I do that right? What cheek first? Who cares, can this day get any better?
King Leopold Monument

Let's move on, shall we, to the Atomium, a structure that resembles an iron cell. A scientific monument so amazing and beautiful that Billy Graham might even endorse evolution in its presence. It's very cool, and like the Eiffel Tower it was meant to be removed after it's World's Fair exhibition.

After some crazy photos we walked over to Monument Leopold, a intricate and detailed statue honoring the first Belgian King. Across the street is the Royal Palace, home of the current royalty. It's quiet, isolated and best described as unsuspecting and rather humble in comparison to the Buckingham Palace or the White House.

King and Queen's Palace
A little while longer Christie was beckoned to go pray as a part of her missionary duties. We decided then to venture out on our own. Eventually we ended up in what appeared to be a particularly Muslim section of town where we later found out from Sarah and Christie that we probably were mistaken for prostitutes. "Coooool!" I replied, as Sarah began planning our Soiree with her friend Jeremie. Jeremie, a handsome beer aficionado, and overall awesome guy shows up with Belgian beer of various flavors and tastes. We then head down the stairs and out to the square where the neighborhood friture (french fry vendor) fried us up a batch of frites and sauces. Oh how I missed my andalouse sauce! Eventually Christie arrived back and the five of us laughed and talked the night away. Rightfully so, food became a backdrop for our socializing- a stark contrast to the America's "woof it down in silence while grunting" culture.
Frites and Saus

I can't describe what it's like, but when I'm there it's like there's music playing in the air and life feels real- more real than it ever has here. In self-doubt I could argue many explanations, but I believe I've traveled enough at this point to confidently say what I'm experiencing is real, and that despite what long term changes would occur in my opinion should I ever discover a way to stay.... these moments, these precious, precious moments are the best days of my life.

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