Good afternoon from the Netherlands! I spent the last two weekends in various parts of Belgium and I decided to combine my post to include both of these travel weekends 🙂 This post will also feature a friend visit, and my first international football match!
At this point, I am roughly halfway through my 20 weeks in the Netherlands! I have so much more to see and do, and I am so looking forward to the next 10 weeks of growth, adventure, and latte macchiatos.
Sorry about the title. My brain hurts from all the EU law that I need to memorize by Thursday morning.
Bruges: October 6-7
My lovely friend Sophia DeKlotz came to visit me from Sweden 2 weeks ago and we had a lovely time. We lived together sophomore year, and on the same floor freshman year. Seeing her was amazing, and we had a lovely time in Bruges. I met her at the train station on Friday afternoon, and we caught up over bagels before heading to the train station. The sky cleared when we came out of the bagel shop, and I snapped this lovely picture. I’m so in love with Maastricht and I love being able to share it with people.
Plant shop in Maastricht.
We had a 45 minute stopover in Liege before our connecting train, and this was my first time to the Liege train station and it’s one of the most beautiful stations I have ever traveled through. We took a chance and took a walk up the hill by the train station for views, and to stretch our legs before the longer part of our journey.
Moments from Liege: The best puppy I’ve petted so far, Sophia on the random hill and the sign outside of the train station.
We talked all day about all the things, and when we finally arrived in Bruges, we were floored. We made a 25 minute walk from the train station into an hour because we stopped for so many pictures. I’m really happy we did because the next day it poured all day (oops). Our Airbnb was beautiful, and so nice, especially after my disaster of an Airbnb in Lille. We stayed with Camryn and Blake, and once Blake’s train we got Lebanese food for dinner and ice cream, and stumbled upon more live music! It was a fantastic day all around.
Friday afternoon and evening in Bruges.
We all woke up and got breakfast, more bagels, at Bagelsalon, and the café was so quirky. You could order teas that were named after world leaders. I ordered the Phillip tea, presumably named after Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (?).
Saturday also featured a boat ride through the canals, souvenir shopping, and a lot of chocolate consumption. We ended up leaving earlier than expected, due to the rain. We were pleasantly surprised when we got home because my friends were already in the kitchen, and Sophia got to meet my beautiful Maastricht friends. We finished the night with a little bit of RuPaul’s Drag Race (the best way to end a night in my opinion).
Looking out from the top of the Belfry tower over rainy Bruges.
I am 100% going back to Bruges. I feel confident saying it’s in my top 3 of places I have visited in my lifetime. Sophia’s visit was amazing, and I love hosting friends although I always get a little homesick when they leave. I’m looking forward to when we are all together in Denver again.
Netherlands v Sweden
Three days after Sophia visited, I was off to Amsterdam to watch the qualifying rounds of the men’s World Cup. Our opponent was Sweden, and we had a slim chance of moving on to the World Cup, as we would have needed to win by 8 when we were predicted to lose in the first place. My program bussed us to the game (shoutout to CES for awesome transportation!). I had a great time! I did not know any of the words to the chants, but I was with so many friends that it didn’t matter! 10/10 would recommend seeing a soccer game in Europe. They are so much fun! We ended up winning (GO ORANGE), but not advancing. Also, the US got knocked out the same night, so I have no clue which team I am going to root for come World Cup season. Women’s soccer is better than men’s soccer anyways. Maybe I’ll sit out this round.
Hup hup Holland!
Brussels & Dinant: October 12-15th
To be quite honest with you all, I was not excited about going to Brussels. I had many people come back saying it was a gross city, and that it felt unsafe. I went into the weekend with low expectations for Brussels as a city, but high expectations for the overall experience as I would be meeting up with Alex and other Denver people. I took the train to Brussels by myself, and Alex met me at the train station before we headed to meet a friend of ours for dinner. I was kind of cautiously walking through the city with this pit in my stomach at this point. We had a great dinner, and she introduced us to Kriek, a Belgian ale that is fermented with sour cherries. I am now obsessed. We went back to Alex’s Airbnb to chat over chocolate.
The next day, I was feeling super tired in the morning, and ended up napping at like 12PM after Alex left for his eight hour volunteer shift. Oops. I actually had a terrible day, but I was not about to let that ruin my time. I grabbed my purse and ventured out into the Grand Place, and stopped in no less than 5 chocolate shops. I was so stubbornly frustrated on Friday that I was not even paying attention to feeling safe. I sat in the Grand Place for a while and stared at the buildings, took artsy photos of chocolate, and just enjoyed the moment.
Grand Place feat. Belgian chocolate
I booked myself a free walking tour of the city at 4PM and went on that by myself as well. This walking tour made all the difference in my Brussels experience. I felt so confident navigating the city after that and I felt so safe. My guide was so positive. I would highly recommend tours from Sandeman’s. I walked back and had dinner with Denver people before heading back to the Airbnb alone. The Airbnb had a beautiful balcony that looked out over a busy square. Sitting on the balcony alone, I felt like this was one of those moments I would cherish forever.
Stunning scenes from my walking tour.
Alex and I spent the whole day exploring Brussels, and Saturday was much better than Friday. I took him to the church that I had stopped in on my walking tour, and we ate a lot of chocolate. We probably ate too much, but I’m still alive. I took some basic photos, and we decided to get out of the city to explore the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. That name is too long for me, so I refer to it as the Museum of Pointy Things.
Alex capturing me being basic, a macaron from the best chocolate shop in Brussels, and babe & I.
Our metro stop let off at this beautiful park, and the day was gorgeous, so we stopped and sat on the grass for a couple minutes and enjoyed the view. Alex nerded out over military history at the museum while I cracked jokes about the uniforms. That’s the kind of couple we are. We laid down on the grass at another park on the other side of the museum and just savored the sunshine. It was like a late spring day, and I had not seen the sun in a week in Maastricht. Heading back, we ate the best fries in the city, and they were truly incredible. Alex went to his leadership dinner, and I went to get dinner by myself. I waited in line for a half hour for the “best Lebanese food in Europe,” (per TripAdvisor). It was amazing food. Alex came back and we drank beer on the balcony while people-watching.
Brussels is the city that has surprised me the most so far. I did not expect to fall in love with it as much as I did. This probably has something to do with the availability of chocolate, waffles, and fries. In all seriousness, this was a complete reality check on how it is so important to being open to letting your perspective be changed by a place. Thanks for the growth Brussels.
On Sunday, we crawled out of bed and hopped on a train to Dinant. Don’t know what/where Dinant is? It’s a tiny town in the south of Belgium, close to the French border. The man who invented the saxophone lived here, and they are pretty proud of it. Also, Charles de Gaulle, the man I can’t escape, was injured in battle here. They are pretty proud of that too. We coincidentally ended up on the same train as our friends from Maastricht, Lauren and Madison, that we were supposed to meet in Dinant. Yay for happy accidents! We ventured up to the Citadel, and the views were stunning. Most of our day was spent sitting by the river, on a dock in the middle of town, drinking beer and chatting. This weekend had quite a few moments I know I’ll hold onto as moments of pure tranquility, and this was one of them. The sun was shining, the beer was cold, and the conversation was lively. I love these people.
Photo dump from Dinant. Thank Lauren Petty for the beer photo, mine wasn’t photogenic enough 🙂
I’m traveling to Budapest on Friday! SOS! Traveling is so exhausting! I’m almost done with my first block of classes. I am so excited for my next block of classes. I said I would do less traveling next block but I just found a 45 euro flight to Switzerland so… Also contemplating traveling to Moscow… Hmm…
Stella is fixed and she stopped making squeaking noises when I pedal! Yay! The girls are back together!
I’ll be back next week with my tales from the East! I’m so excited. I am gonna eat so much food. Cheers to all of you reading this. I hope you can all find peace in these trying times. Sometimes all you need is a good drink, laughter, and friends. That’s what I’m hoping at least.
You are always healing so don’t wait to start living.
(Side note: I started listening to this new band Rainbow Kitten Surprise and I dig them so much. Check them out if you’re into folk-y rock).