Belgium, a small country to the north of France. Every one who lives in Paris for a study abroad and wishes to travel Europe would 110% visit Belgium, for more than one reasons. The most important ones : Cheap trains/buses from Paris to Brussels. And one million (maybe I’m exaggerating) varieties of beers! Maybe not a million.. but thousand? For sure! Belgian beers are known world wide, and Belgians do love their beers, just like the French do their wine. If not anything else, I’ve definitely learnt a thing or two about wines and beers in Europe. You know, general knowledge that seems to be important when you’re studying abroad in Europe. So, let me not stray from the topic, and get straight back to talking about Belgium, and the two cities I’ve visited till now.. followed by some quick photographs.
It might sound insane, but I’ve taken a train from Paris to Brussels a couple of times already, but I’ve never been outside in the city of Brussels. I mean, yeah technically I have, the metro and a climbing place I recently went to.. But never really the town center. I know thats insane, but I’ll do that soon 😛
So, after getting down from the “izy” Thalys (read Thalys for cheap travels and for people who are lost between France and Belgium and wanting to call both of them their home), I’ve been to two cities till now : Gent and Leuven.
[Quick note, if you don’t know about izy thalys – its the affordable version of Thalys train, takes a little longer than the Thalys, but its a blessing for its extremely affordable!]
About the cities – I absolutely love how cute, tiny (compared to my home country in Europe) and pretty they are. I know these are such dreamy adjectives, but its true! I think Belgian cities have a very relaxed aura to them. For some reason, the air in Belgium is different from that in France. Definitely there are more bars than cafes – well, thats what I’ve noticed. Of course you find bars everywhere in Paris too, but somehow you find more bars than cafes if you walk around in Belgium. Not to forget your nose would be on alert all the time, because DUH! WAFFLES and FRIES! Let me not say French fries, as we know it. But Belgian fries- the original fries.. and ummm, my mouth is watering! THEY ARE DELICIOUS. You have to come and try them. But let me just mention on thing about them, and thats the major point of difference from French fries as we know them.. Belgian fries are not like the thin almost dead McDonalds fries, which are competing with a size zero girl.. Belgian fries are thick and and and and… DELICIOUS!!!!
And what goes best with them? A drink in a beautiful bar, with friendly waiters who happily speak English if you ask them to (unlike in France). Shit, I seem to compare France and Belgium a lot. But I’m stating facts. Belgian waiters > French waiters. Not just the waiters, but everyone there seems to have a decent level of English. Okay I’m not criticizing the French or anything, they have great qualities in their own way, but when it comes to being multilingual, the Belgians win! (I think I need to write a post about three years of my life in France too – maybe then I could put down in writing my real views about the French culture.)
Well, since I was talking about bars, here is one I would recommend for sure. This one is in Leuven, a small student city, 45 minutes by train from Brussels. The bar is called “De Blauwe Schuit” and is not exactly in the center but very close to it. And, why is it amazing? They have a pet PEACOCK!!! Now thats something different. A bar/restaurant with a pet peacock on their terrace. It absolutely looks like a summer paradise!!! With all the greenery, and the peacock quite literally doing a free show! He is such a show off bird, really. He isn’t scared of so many people sitting around. In fact he knows that everybody loves looking at him, so he’ll show off his feathers happily!!!
As far as architecture and scenic beauty is concerned, I don’t think I need to compare France and Belgium here.. Both are equally rich in scenic beauty, history, and architecture. But there’s something about Belgium.. something unique.. The few times I’ve visited, I always tried to understand what it was.. In fact, every time I visit a new city, I always try to notice difference from the ones I’ve been to. Almost all the European cities might seem to be rich in culture, history, architecture and scenic beauty, but there is something different about the cities of each country. Maybe I need to walk around Brussels to figure out what it really is.. the capital is of course a must visit. But from what I’ve felt till now, I think its the happy faces and the difference in the lifestyle that makes it different. There’s a relaxing feeling, a happier feeling, a feeling that I never got while walking around in Paris.