Aside from the OTG antics that made my little mini-vacation so memorable, there was lots to like about Belgium, itself.
First off, it was beautiful. The country is situated smack dab between France and The Netherlands, and per OTG, Brussels looks like what would happen if Amsterdam and Paris mated. I haven't yet been to either of those cities, but I'll take her word for it. I do know there was a distinct half-Dutch/ half-French vibe to the city, with every street sign, train sign, etc. showing both the French (Rue de...) and Dutch (Straat) translations of the street name:
Of course, I do not know Dutch, and have about three words in French (please, thank you, hello). OTG was slightly better with the French since she took it in high school (but she reminded me that she really didn't go to classes very often those last two years, so she may have missed a lot of vocabulary lessons). Generally we struggled whenever we weren't in the touristy areas. My three words of French weren't of much help, even less so when I panicked in the line of fire and consistently mixed them up, greeting people right off the bat with a "thank you," and saying "hello" when, for example, receiving change after a purchase. At times my brain, knowing we had switched into foreign language mode but not being very good at all in that mode, defaulted to Spanish, and I know at least one bartender found it strange when I asked (in pretty lousy Spanish) for "dos cervezas, por favor."
We spent two days in Brussels and one day in Bruges, a beautiful little canal town about an hour away by train. Here are some pretty pictures. I can't really identify a lot of the sites by name because we didn't travel with a guidebook or map. Instead we just wandered around, turning down streets that looked interesting, taking note of cool looking buildings, and then moving on.
More Bruges. We did play tourists long enough to go on a canal boat ride
Aside from that, and completely coincidentally, Brussels turned out to be a fantastic place to go running (always a plus, in my book). I've struggled to find good, quiet running routes in London and spend most of my time along busy streets, breathing in exhaust fumes and stopping every 15 minutes to figure out where the heck I am. Not so in Brussels. The city is ringed with "forests" and we were very lucky to book a hotel with lovely running trails right out the back door. Trying to get in all of my workouts while traveling is stressful; this was an ideal situation that just fell into place.
Forest #2 (the next day, when the entrance to Forest #1 was closed)
And Belgium is (like most European countries, so far as I can tell) a place that loves its food, its beer, and its football. When we first arrived in Brussels, we were somewhat puzzled by all the men, clearly enebriated, that were wandering around in kilts. Turned out Belgium and Scotland had a big soccer match that evening, and for whatever reason, the Scottish fan base was huge and clearly enjoying its own Belgian tailgate. It was a bit like randomly wandering onto a Big Ten campus a couple hours before an (American) football game.
Crazy Scottish football fans
As for the food and beer, well, we had to sample the local specialties (chocolate and waffles). We would have been rude visitors if we hadn't!
There may have been a few beers, too, but I'm beginning to realize that my blog is making me look a bit like a lush, which is not the case at all, so I'll refrain from posting yet more beer pictures.
Never mind, who am I kidding. Here's another beer picture. I may be training again, but it's still sorta the off-season, right?