Bruxelles! I’m not really sure where to start writing from about this new city I just saw.
Brussels was fantastic. It was a lot different than I expected, but I didn’t really have any expectations to begin with. But honestly, wow, what an incredible city!
Above all, it was terrific getting to spend time with Chloé. It’s been months since I’ve seen her and it was wonderful just to be able to wander around her city and catch up with her.
Brussels to me wasn’t quite what I expected. First of all, the famous fountain of the little boy pissing was a huge let down. I was expecting some grand, elaborate, typical-European fountain with a little golden cherub gracefully peeing, but it’s this cornered off, practically hidden, teeny-tiny little boy in a fountain taking a leak. And hidden around the corner is one of a little girl which to me was much more shocking to see but yet it goes unnoticed by locals and tourists alike.
My favorite part about Brussels was the international culture. Since it is the home of the European Union, you have students, ambassadors, and internationals coming in from all over Europe to live, work, or study. With that being said, everyone I met was French (or Flemish) speaking, but there was no hesitation or boundary for them to switch into English with me. We even found lots of Spanish speakers to chat with. I met people that spoke more than just English and French, but Italian, German, Greek, Spanish, amongst others. The minimum someone spoke there was three languages, but everyone kept surprising me by stating all the languages they knew. It made me quite envious but I’m still proud that I’ve gotten at least two languages mastered.
So here’s the trip: I woke up at 4am on Friday to catch the plane to Brussels. We arrived with no delays and I quickly paid the over-priced fee for the shuttle bus that runs from the airport to the city center. We arrived an hour later, only then for me to catch the metro, ride that for another 15 minutes, walk another ten minutes and finally climb the steps to see Chloé impatiently waiting for me to arrive.
We walked around the city, I snapped a few pictures, and then we made our way to Delirium which is the most famous bar in Brussels because they have over 2,000 beers! They hand you a book with endless beers from all over Belgian and the world. How you are supposed to pick one is beyond me. They even had a lot of Denver/CO local beers which was pretty rad.
Our first night, we went to this big university concert-party, which resembled the Spanish Botellón, except it had live music. There were several stages with many different types of bands and genres performing while the streets flooded with university students, Erasmus and local alike. There were food and beer vendors keeping everyone satisfied. I met a lot of very friendly people, but I was still blown away by the international-ness of Brussels and how impressive all the people were with their diverse backgrounds.
The next day, we wandered around the city a bit more, met up with some of her friends in a park, and then hung out in a bar chatting with some people from all over: Greece, Columbia, France, Belgium. I even ordered everyone’s drinks in French which took a lot out of me to get the pronunciation right, but the bartender was patient as I clumsily spit the French words out of my mouth and then nodded and gave me a “pat on the back” smile. It was his way of saying, “Good job kid, you did it.” But even though it’s pretty easy to say une bière et un jus de tomate, it was still incredibly thrilling for me to have spoken another language.
Later, we went home, got ready and went out to a friend’s birthday party. There I met some even more incredible people: One girl that was half American, half French, but grew up in Belgium, or some ridiculous combination like that. She spoke like five languages. I met another that was half British, half French, but was brought up in Italy. So she too spoke a number of languages. And of course everyone there was confidently fluent in English so I once again had no issues talking to people. It’s interesting because here in Madrid (or in Spain rather) no one speaks any English. So if you don’t know Spanish, you’re out of luck for the most part. But Brussels had top-quality English speakers which was really nice.
So we hung out there for a while, and then we left to go to something that translates to “Night in White” which is a common event in French-speaking countries where they open all the museums and public buildings for an entire night. So we made our way down to the city center to have a few drinks and enjoy my last night. We ended up going back to the street where Delirium is, we ordered a few more beers, and then sat on the street there, which was jam-packed with people and bars (all owned by Delirium).
I had one beer in hand that we had bought from inside the bar, when we realized Chloé still had some that we had brought to the party in her purse so we proceeded to pull a few out and just as we are sitting there talking with all these people we had just met, some bouncer pulls me out and pushes me off the street. He barely spoke English but Chloé came after me and said, “I told you to be careful with that beer.” I didn’t think it would matter since we were in the street, but since it was all bars, they didn’t allow you to even be there with outside drinks. So I left my beer there around the corner, tried to enter again and as I get within a few feet from Chloé I feel a sturdy grip on my arm and it’s the same bouncer and he says to me, “You’rrrre feenished.” And he pushed me out. To me, this was absolutely unnecessary but completely hilarious!
So I guess it was time to go home. We caught bikes and rode back to Chloé’s place where I got only 2 hours of sleep before I had to get up to catch my plane back to Madrid. Overall, it turned out to be an incredibly fun night and we ended up laughing the whole way home from what that night’s events entailed.
The people Chloé introduced me to were all terrific and I ended up becoming buddy-buddy with almost everyone I met. But sometimes the people around town were a little bit rude. I’m starting to put a connection to French language having something to do with a snobby culture (stereotypes are true after all…what?). But aside from that, I’m now even more motivated to learn French and to do my Master’s in Brussels. I found a school there that looked promising, but after going there and meeting people that were so diverse, I have to go there! I know that if I want an international career, I’m going to need the degree first, and what better place to get an international degree from the European center of internationalism! Those are my thoughts for now at least.
Anyway, I returned home this morning, bummed that tomorrow I’ll have my first day of work and that I don’t get to spend more time exploring Brussels with Chloé. Fortunately, Chloé is coming to Madrid on Thursday and staying all weekend, so I’ll get to see her again. Overall, again, one of the best weekends I’ve had. I love traveling.
Write more later,