Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Chocolate! I mean, BRUSSELS!
Brussels is lovely. It's actually a very small city, almost no need for public transportation at all. First thing this morning, Marnie and I walked to the "Market Square" in Brussels (center of the city a million years old-compared to anything we have in the states anyway)
and met at the Godiva store to begin our 4 hour chocolate tour of the city, because how else does one appropriately begin one's time in Belgium? (I do have to admit I was thinking "Godiva. Not bad chocolate, but it better get better than this. Belgium did not disappoint.)
Off we went. The tour actually ending up doing a fantastic job of including the history of the city, the important building and some of the city's famous Art Nouveau architecture, with frequent chocolate stops.
Now, the chocolate. YUM. I've learned that, although I have a lot more tasting to do be before I can be sure, Madagascar cocoa beans make my favorite chocolate. "It's more bitter, with a longer after taste," or so I'm told. When they had us taste one cookie with chocolate on it and figure out what kind of chocolate I was right on. "It's dark. But only slightly," I say. Correct. 54% to be exact, just barely dark. I'm such a connoisseur :). Marnie and I are doing our chocolate shopping Friday morning before we catch our train back to London. We want them to be as fresh as possible and are mapping out the best route to get us to our favorite chocolates.
During the tour we, of course, stopped by the chocolate museum where we had the opportunity to make our own chocolates. Basically, we got to play in vats of chocolate and dip things them, like marzipan and sugared orange along with making goops of chocolate and piling them with nuts/fruits. It was a very well done tour. I highly recommend it.
After a very much needed, very good, late lunch we came back to the hotel. Marnie read and napped a little while I went to the hotel sauna to get nice and warm. Hottest sauna I've ever been in. Felt good....I then took my turn napping while listening a beautiful bell chorus. A gift from a friend in Santa Rosa, Ca that came up on my ipod at precisely the perfect relaxation moment. Love those bells.
This evening we headed out toward the Market Square again as there is supposed to be all kinds of seasonal concerts, displays, etc going on. It finally felt like Christmas. Everyone really gets into the spirit of things here and Christmas lights and festivals are everywhere. I love it.
We arrive at the Square, which is made up of Baroque designed buildings, complete with gold leafing on the building and ornate statues. It was made even more beautiful by a light show that was going on. The had very pretty, seasonal music pouring into the square with a coordinated lights display, projected directly on the historic buildings. It kind of took my breath away for a moment. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of my trip so far. I especially liked when one building was lit in the shadows of the arches with a deep, foreboding purple. It was awesome. We then meandered around until me went to a restaurant our tour guide suggested, stating that it was, "No BS, just really good food, from a good kitchen, at reasonable prices." He was right. The food was pretty good. He must really like it there because while we were eating, he came in with some friends. (He also gives a beer tour in the afternoons and may have not needed the wine he was drinking as he asked us several times how we heard about the place and showered us with....affection.)
After we eventually were able to stand after dinner (not being hungry wen we started due to the late lunch, and it's sizable deliciousness) we went back to the Christmas fair we ran into last night and hopped on the ferris wheel there. It actually gave a decent view of the city and the skating rink below, along with a slide made of ice that kids were having a good time sliding down. The best part of this for me was that when we got to the very top the world seemed very silent, but the occasional laughter of children would break through and make me smile.
I'm home now, after a hot shower to warm up and really need to be getting to bed as we're heading to Brugge (Bruges) tomorrow morning. Everyone who's been to Belgium says it's the best place to go, like a whole storybook town. We'll just be going by train for the day then headed back to Brussels tomorrow evening.
Maybe one day I'll even post these. Maybe I'll even type up my other hand written notes and you can read all about the fun adventure I'm having right now. Don't think for a minute that I don't love that I'm finally getting to travel the world and see so many wonderful things. And don't think for a minute I'm not coming back with chocolate. :)
Best part is, the chocolate is so good I'm satisfied after one or two pieces. No need to down the whole supply like I do with Hershey's Hugs. Just a nibble here and there and I am at peace.