Belgium in 36 hours

I had a weekend free (you know, as opposed to all my other weekends here, that are booked full of important meetings) so I took a trip to Belgium with a couple other kids I met here, Becky and Camerin. There was a Decemberists concert on Saturday, which Becky was stoked about. I just wanted to see a couple of cool cities. And plus, train travel in Belgium is rull cheap, because they have this “Go Pass”, which gives you 10 one-way tickets between any two Belgian cities for 45 euro. (and you can share it) So we just hop a train to the closest spot across the border (it’s called “Vise”, and it’s shady) for EU$3.80, and it’s EU$4.50 from there. Good deal.

Brussels was grand. I guess it’s the EU headquarters, which means it’s always full of politicians. Which also means it’s stuffy and boring. But if you’re just there for a day, there’s plenty to do. Saw the famous Grand Place, and by golly it is grand and it is a place. Saw the Belgian Comic Strip Museum. Ate at this awesome little Congolese (I think) place called “Waka Moon.” So much character! Little corner bar, great food (I had Maafe Agneau, which is apparently lamb in peanut sauce, and wow, I’d like to know how to make that.), and great wine for EU$2. I’m starting to really like wine. I think it’s just because I feel all grown up when I buy it, like “Thank you for letting me be an actual full-fledged member of society” sort of thing. Plus there are so many kinds, and here, it’s all pretty cheap. Call me a Decemberist, but I’d drink wine over beer any day.*

Speaking of the Decemberists, the concert was kind of how I imagined, and maybe a little better, because Colin Meloy was pretty animated, and there was intense audience interaction going on, and I like it when bands talk between songs. Maybe the Crane Wife deserves a listen. And they were pretentious and full of big words, and they did wear hipster clothes, and there was extensive instrumentation, and Colin did drink red wine throughout the show.

*unless it’s crummy wine (big Gerrit Betz Jug of Sangria, I’m looking at you) vs. Brugse Zot, the beer from De Halve Maan brewery in Brugge, because damn was that tasty! Might have been my best beer experience here yet. Also, way to find the asterisk. Also, I actually kind of like the big Gerrit Betz Jug of Sangria.

Speaking of Brugge, after a night at the lovely Brussels Royotel (which was perfect in that it was right down the street from the concert, a private room, and EU$25/person) we went there, and it was like the guidebooks said: a tourist attraction but worth it. Very quaint, lots of medieval things (and many modern things too… the retailers have swooped in) but still cool churches, monuments, restaurants, etc. Worth seeing for sure if you’re in the neighborhood. Some parts on the way into town I thought could be almost indescribably beautiful in the spring. (but it was winter.)

Hey, I wrote a lot of this synopsis in my photo albums, and there’s no use repeating myself. Check them out!

In other news, I went to my first acting class today (with the drama club here… I couldn’t be in their show because it’s being performed after I leave), and really felt on top of my game. Improv teaches you a lot, maybe about acting, maybe about self-confidence, but whatever it is, it helped.

Have I mentioned how my bike has lights that are POWERED BY MY PEDALING? I just click the little roller into place and the lights turn on when the wheel turns. So cool! I want to ship the bike home (probably costing more than the bike itself) just for that feature. So cool! And all the bikes here have that!

Classes are marching on. I love buying and cooking food. My erwtensoep (pea soup) turned out well; I’ll make it when I get back. I also like kwark a lot. And today I bought a jar of pickled herring.

Oh, and one more thing… if people actually like drinking a whole lot, like until they start blacking out, maybe I’m the anomaly. But if not, can we all stop pretending please? I won’t think less of you if you’re a lightweight. Really. So let’s stop the shenanigans and drink sensible amounts. (I guess this is directed only at Americans.)

But other than the fact that I’m not made for a party-heavy culture, I love this place, and things are going pretty well. Thank you for everything, etc.

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