July 19, 2014

Brussels & Amsterdam Day 1

If you're following along on this little European series of mine, I last left you with my last day in Paris.

Still on a high from such a wonderful stay I cheerily said not good-bye, but see ya later to the City of Light and settled into my bus seat for the long drive to Amsterdam. We had a stop in Brussels, Belgium for lunch and more importantly--waffles!

When we arrived in Brussels it was early afternoon. Our group guide, Claudia, walked us first to the Manneken-Pis which is a naughty little statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. It's a silly little thing and the statue is often dressed up by a local organization.

You would walk right past it if there wasn't a huddle of tourists crowded around as it sits nestled into a small corner of two small streets. There are many legends behind the statue including one that a small boy went missing and when found he was peeing so as thanks to the town for finding him the father gifted the fountain. 

After snapping a picture almost our entire group made a beeline for the nearest waffle stand. You can find one or two on every corner which creates a soft, sweet aroma in the streets. The waffles are treated more like dessert than breakfast although they also make savory waffle sandwiches and other things. I wasn't sure what topping to get until I spotted Speculoos on the menu. You don't have to ask me twice if I want cookie butter spread on anything! 

Let me just say you have not had a waffle until you've had one in Belgium--not an American "Belgian waffle" but a real Belgian waffle! They are more dense and sweeter than our breakfast waffles. My friend Megan had chocolate (or nutella?) and strawberries on hers and couldn't stop talking about it for the rest of the trip! 

After the decadent waffle I wasn't quite in the mood to sit down and eat a full restaurant meal so I wandered the shopping area and picked up some Belgian chocolate souvenirs from the fancy Chocolatier, Neuhaus. Don't be shy, ask for samples!

The overcast sky and quaint city center was the perfect setting to cozy up with some coffee. I sat in the medieval square with my shopping treasures and watched a beautiful wedding party outside of the Grand Place.

Feeling nice and satisfied we hopped back on the bus to continue on to Amsterdam. Little did we know that bad weather and traffic was coming our way and it took us almost double the anticipated amount of time before we arrived. I never want to be on a bus that long ever again. 

Our very nice hotel room in Amsterdam more than made up for it, but no time for sleep! After freshening up and grabbing a bite to eat. We took the tram into the city and Claudia walked us through the famous Red Light District in the early evening. 

Curious as we all were, prostitution is certainly not my thing. The atmosphere was actually milder than I was expecting and the women in their infamous red lit windows are not nude. It's really just a big tourist attraction to be honest. 

Along with the legal prostitution Amsterdam is of course known for their "coffeehouses" which means they sell marijuana--not coffee! Again, the pot smoking is milder than you would think. It is very well organized and regulated by the government. It's mostly tourists taking advantage of the legalized substance and aside from the occasional whiff of weed (which was kind of funny to me that it's a normal smell) you won't notice anything unordinary except that the houses exist. 

No I did not try it, legal or not. ;) 

As you can see I didn't take any photos this evening. You weren't allowed to in the Red Light District and afterward we were having too good of a time drinking Heineken (brewery is in Amsterdam and it tastes better there, too!) and later danced ourselves into a sweaty mess at a club playing American music!

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