Regardless of what Americans call them, Frites (french fries) are Belgian and are best with a dollop of Andalouse sauce. In Ixelles, there's a frite stand called Antoine's in Place Jourdan where you can buy a large cone of steaming frites for 2,20 euros. The bars surrounding the square invite Antoine's customers in for free place to eat their frites and enjoy a cold Belgian beer. Ils sont parfaits ensemble- they are perfect together.
Belgian beer deserves a separate paragraph. First of all, there are so many Belgian beer brands. A few that I remember or tasted are: Bush, Jupiler, Grimbergen, Karmeliet, Amstel, Chimay, Orval, Westmalle, Stella Artois, Belle Vue, etc etc... Then, there numerous brews or types of the beers. I saw blonde, noire, rouge, blanche, ambree, triple, double, and 6%-12%. The fun part about drinking Belgian beer in Belgium is the special glass that comes with each beer served at a bar. For example, if you order a Grimbergen Roussa, you will be served in a special Grimbergen glass. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and delicious for the taste buds! One night, Jon and Brian took Jolene and I to a bar called Delirium Café that serves over 2,000 beers. It was smokey and crowded with young people speaking numerous different languages but that only contributed to the experience of being in a real Belgian bar.
To follow up on my food/drink theme in Belgium, how about those Belgian Waffles?! You can pile just about anything you want on top- whipped creme, carmel, Belgian chocolate, bananas, nutella, strawberries, etc. But honestly, they taste perfect plain. I definitely recommend (from experience) only buying fresh waffles that are made on the spot. The Brussels metro waffles are perfectly délicieux!
I could continue talking about the amazing food, like Belgian chocolate, but I must continue onto the other wonderful things about Brussels and Belgium.
Downtown Brussels has so much to see and do. It is where the European Union headquarters are located, including a large EU information center. There are numerous monuments, churches, and parks, but watch out for dog poop. There's also the King Albert II's Palace (yes, Belgium has a king), and the Mannequin pis and Jeanneke Pis to search for. When the wet wintery weather isn't prime for outdoor sightseeing, there are plenty of museums and bars to explore.
I've wanted to visit Brugge ever since seeing the movie In Bruges in 2008. Now I can vouch that the city is even more beautiful in person. This medieval town is beautifully preserved and carries a mysterious charm, which I also found in the movie. There are beautiful canals with swans and a large city square with buildings decorated in gold. Brugge is in the Flemish part of Belgium, so my French was useless but my ears enjoyed hearing the funny new sounds. Unfortunately all the big tourist sites in Brugge close early so I wasn't able to climb to the top of the bell tower or see the few drops of Jesus' blood. But just being in the city and walking around was well worth the trip!
That night in Brugge we stopped in Brugs Beerje, the bar that inspired the Good Beer Guide book. It was a great bar atmosphere with friendly bartenders and more than 300 beers on the menu, which was practically a book. I would definitely recommend this bar to any beer connoisseur or tourist in Belgium.
Overall, my favorite part of Belgium was seeing Jon in his new home. He has an awesome set up with his apartment and internship. I was able to go to work with him one morning and see inside the Reuters building where all the journalism magic happens. The big international/ EU stories he works on and the international journalists he works with give him such an interesting and exciting experience.
On our last night in Brussles, Jon and his roommate threw a fun mexican food party for Jolene and I with the other exchange students. They were great hosts and awesome tour guides through the northern part of Europe. I'm so glad I got to spend my break with them!