I traveled with my two friends (Katie and Erin) to Brussels, Belgium. Truthfully, it had never crossed my mind to visit Belgium but there was a cheap flight so we booked it. Our plane leaving Sevilla was a bit delayed so we decided to share a bottle of white wine (because it is Europe, and we were studying abroad, and we could) as we were waiting in the airport. We bought a bottle called “Tio Pepe,” and all agreed it had a very interesting taste that none of us especially enjoyed. After a few more sips we finally looked at the bottle to learn it was sherry, something for which Spain is famous. We didn’t finish the bottle, and the trip was off to a strong start.    We finally boarded the RyanAir plane and to our surprise, all of our backpacks were the correct size for carry-ons. The flight was packed, and I quickly fell asleep because I had an exam earlier in the day and was exhausted. We arrived in Brussels at about midnight and went straight to the taxi line.  This was where we learned that we were 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) away from the city center – a classic RyanAir situation. If it had been earlier in the day, we would have searched for alternative routes to our hotel but because we understood approximately nothing about the language, the culture or the country, we decided to bite the 120 euro bullet and take a taxi to our hotel in the city center.    We arrived at Hotel Mozart safe and sound and were given room #104. The entire time, we could not figure out the theme of the hotel; however, the last day I met the owner. He was Moroccan, which made sense considering the Arabian Nights theme to the place. Our room had two stories, three beds and one bathroom.  It was not the cleanest place. Luckily, I brought a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants for pajamas. I also used a sweater as my pillow because there was not one provided, and even if there was, I’m not sure I’d trust it. Additionally, there was a pretty consistent smell of soil and mold but as they say, “This is study abroad,” or at least that is what I had to tell myself.    The hotel location was ideal – right near the Grand Place (or Grote Markt), and our street was lined with bars, restaurants, clubs and kebab dives. It was about 1:30 a.m. but we decided to go have a beer at a place right down the street from us…because we were in Belgium. After a blonde brew, some bar nuts and colored lasers intersecting clouds of cigarette smoke, we called it a night. Day one – complete.    On Saturday, we woke up around 9 a.m. just in time to attend the provided hotel breakfast. We made our way through the maze-like hotel to the breakfast room, which was a heavily mosaic-tiled cellar – it was pretty cool. Breakfast consisted of a large hunk of a multigrain baguette, a delicious croissant, orange juice and coffee, which tasted a bit like dirt. They also provided us with strawberry jam and butter, which was appreciated.    Then, our day began, and we took the city by storm, walking non-stop until 5 p.m. Here are twelve tidbits we learned throughout the day:    1. The city is stereotypically spot on – lot of fabulous chocolate, frites (fries), beer and waffles    2. The culture (or lack thereof) is difficult to understand, and there is a lot of unexpected African, Middle Eastern and Asian influences    3. Their churches are very Gothic    4. It is an expensive city    5. Flemish (their language) is simply another word for Dutch    6. It is the birthplace of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Godiva chocolate    7. Macarons are magical    8. You cannot take pictures of military men with large machine guns    9. There is not necessarily a quote-on-quote typical Belgian cuisine    10. Men’s fashion is more dominant than women’s, and it was difficult to find little boutiques for women    11. Comics are very popular and famous in Brussels    12. Brussels is the headquarters for the European Union    Our long day brought us to a big restaurant (about three or four stories) that seemed very popular. It was seat yourself, and we luckily were able to snag a table. I had a chicken kebab (skewer-style) with frites and various dipping sauces, my friend Katie had something similar to goulash or beef stew, and my friend Erin had a sauerkraut dish with meat and mashed potatoes.    During dinner, I kept noticing a nice-looking boy glancing at me. It was happening so frequently that I told my friends and eventually stopped looking over in his direction – not because it was creepy but because it was just an abnormal amount of eye contact.  When it came time for his table to leave, he came up to me, handed me a menu and said in broken English, “If you would like, take a moment and look at the last page.”  We waited for him and his friends to leave and turned to the last page where we found a note asking, “Would you like to visit Brussels with me?” accompanied by his name and phone number. We were confused and giddy.    After much discussion about how we should proceed with the evening, we decided to go back to the hotel and text the number to see what would happen. There was some back and forth on WhatsApp, then we decided to meet at one of the most famous, most crowded bars in the city, Delirium Cafe.  It was a very safe and smart decision because there were hundreds of people around and there were three of us going to meet one of him.    We arrived and went to the lower level of the bar to order house-brand beers. We told him we were studying in Spain, and he told us he was from the Netherlands. The night followed with absinthe, a club and kebabs. All in all a good time and an even better story for those who dare to ask for full details. Around 3:30 a.m., which would be the beginning of a night out in Spain, we safely returned to our Arabian palace hotel.    We awoke to a rainy Sunday. We searched for, and enjoyed, the closest thing to brunch since coming to Europe. We bought some souvenirs (read: chocolate) and jumped in a cab to journey back to the faraway airport. Katie and Erin passed out on the ride but I made sure to stay awake to ensure we would not be kidnapped, though I would really have had no idea if the driver was taking us in the right direction. In the end, we arrived in time to catch out RyanAir flight back to Sevilla.    We had zero expectations for this trip because we knew absolutely nothing about the destination. We all agreed that while we had a lot of fun and returned to Sevilla with wonderful stories, none of us would be rushing back to the land of chocolate, frites, beer and waffles.
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