Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brussels

Since we were already across the pond but we didn't have any extra vacation days to use on this trip (wah! #firstworldproblems), we decided to go somewhere in Europe just for a weekend. It was a pretty easy decision because we were limited to Delta flight options and Marriott hotel locations. From there, we narrowed it down based on other locations we either hadn't been to yet and eliminating those where we wanted to spend any longer than a few days. All signs pointed to Belgium, and on top of that I love Belgian beer, so Brussels quickly became the winner!



Once I finished up the work week, we took a train through the chunnel. This was definitely a one-and-done item off our life list. Extremely underwhelming however very efficient and so much better than a plane. Plus, free wine!



We had quite a few bar suggestions from friends and that was the extent of our planning, so we wasted no time. We mapped out a little bar crawl for ourselves, and Delirium Cafe was by far our favorite. In 2004, they set the Guinness World Record for the most variety of beers commercially available (longest list of beers). We made a valiant effort to try them all but we didn't quite make it ;)



Delirium has three floors of never ending beer. Our first day there, we only knew about the main floor which we enjoyed enough on its own. They serve mostly draught beers and we were wondering where was all the world record variety?! And then we discovered the bottom floor, a beer drinker's heaven. We spent most of our second day here. Every beer is served with a matching glass, which reminded us of Brickstore, a local Atlanta favorite in Decatur. We also went upstairs to check out the top floor but it was pretty tame and only had a few beers on tap. 



Bo and I aren't big on shopping for many souvenirs, so we collect random things...mainly, beer bottle caps. We had so many new caps from this trip to add to our collection. We get the strangest reactions when we ask for them. Usually we have to repeat ourselves several times (and have attempted this in several languages now!), and waiters will often bring us the bottle and then take the cap off in front of us, like it's a bottle of wine. No...we just want to keep the cap. Really, it's pretty simple. Our favorite bartender at Delirium Cafe thought it was a fun collection, so he suggested beers to us purely based on the bottle cap - almost all of them were pretty tasty as well. Win, win.

We weren't too partial though, had to get some draft beers as well!

By total coincidence, our hotel was right across the street from the Brussels Stock Exchange, which at the time was owned by the company I work for, but has since been spun off. Seems I can never get away from work!!




We walked around Grand Place (the main square) that night where we found a cute little restaurant for dinner to watch the full moon. It was stunning!





We did watch a little of the World Cup, although Belgium didn't play until the following Tuesday. So just like in London, once again we barely missed watching a team while visiting their country.








Another common recommendation we received was Floris-Bar, which is an absinthe bar conveniently located right across the street from Delirium. This was my first time trying absinthe, and I did not like it at all. Bo says it's an acquired taste - no thanks. It was also quite a process to watch them prepare it, so it wasn't even worth all the anticipation. Back to beer for me, please.





A few of our favorite food items in Brussels:
  • Delirium beer cheese. No brainer.
  • Mussels. When in Brussels...!
  • Chocolate. Always on obvious choice.
  • French Fries. Supposedly invented in Belgium, not France.
  • And of course, a Belgian waffle. Surprisingly incredible, even at a 1-Euro tourist stand.





We didn't do any sightseeing since there isn't really much to see, although we had to stop by the Manneken Pis. Which literally means peeing boy. It is a tiny little two-foot statue of a boy peeing into a water fountain. And it is the symbol on just about every souvenir you will find in the entire city, and more. Ridiculous.


 
Overall we really enjoyed Brussels. We have no real desire to go back, but it was a great place to go for about 36 hours - any longer is really unnecessary. The people were extremely attractive and friendly, prices were very reasonable, and everyone spoke English and at least two or three other languages. Most importantly we thought the food and drinks were amazing as that was the whole purpose of our weekend. Mission accomplished.





Sunday, July 27, 2014

London 2014

When I got back from my last trip to New York, I unpacked and repacked my suitcase in between many loads of laundry, and the very next day I got on another plane to head across the pond. I go to London one week every year (also for work) and this time Bo tagged along (for fun). He went to London a few times when he was younger so we've both done most of the touristy stuff, so it was nice to just enjoy the city, especially since it was our first time there together.



We took a red-eye flight and got into London on a Sunday morning. Took the train to our hotel, changed our clothes, and went straight to Hurlingham Park to go to our very first polo match. So posh, we are.  




There were several matches throughout the day, though we never really picked up on the sport. Polo is basically a big, fancy tailgate. Everyone gets really dressed up and really drunk and sometimes watches a little polo. We started our day off with a pitcher of Pimm's, which was a terrific idea after a red-eye, no?



Regardless of how little we actually know about polo, it was always easy to know when they scored...



During halftime, they let all the fans go out on the field and replace the divots, which is called "treading in". It was kinda cool, but a little underwhelming - if only Richard Gere had been there it would be been a little more exciting ;)









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The rest of the week was much less interesting. Lots of work meetings for me, and lots of relaxation for Bo. We stayed at the Grosvenor House, right across the street from Hyde Park. It was a great location for morning runs in the park, and it took me about 15 minutes on the tube to get to my office, so much better than my normal daily commute in Atlanta traffic. It was also a convenient location for Bo since he did a little sightseeing and mostly spent time reading in the park and enjoying the beautiful weather. I've really lucked out - in the four times I've been to London it's really only rained for a total of one hour. Blue skies and mid-60s, really just perfect.







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Throughout the week we enjoyed some very scenic meals...

Sunset dinner over the River Thames near Putney Bridge

Lunch with a view from Duck & Waffle

Dinner with a view from Smiths of Smithfield


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Thursday of that week was the opening night of the World Cup. Neither of us really like soccer (as they call it, football or "footie"), but we ventured out to the local pubs to enjoy a few pints and be a part of the excitement. England wasn't playing for another few days (we just missed them!), but the pubs were crowded and everyone was really into it. I almost cared :) 



That pretty much wraps up our time in London and kicks off our weekend...once my work week was over, we headed to Brussels for the weekend!