Home to EU headquarters, and also where I have a job interview with NBC, Brussels is the first city on my European trek because the one-way ticket from SFO cost me 99 dollars.
Suffering from severe jet lag and starving for food after midnight, I find a corner shop to buy shrimp chips, mystery soda and unidentifiable but delicious candies. It’s November 25 and a far cry from Thanksgiving turkey and all the fixings.
In the light of day, my first impression — gray and cold, steely buildings next to ornate architecture, rich with museums, stairs inhospitable to luggage, immense train stations, waffles for tourists, fresh roasted chestnuts. McDonald’s has a McPork menu, Winnie the Pooh has a snout, and someone else must select your produce (no touching!). Plenty of mussels on offer but not of the Jean Claude kind.
February 27-March 2
Three months and several countries later, I circle back to Belgium through Brugge, Antwerp, Ghent and Liege in anticipation of returning to the States.
Here it’s clean and peaceful, green and chilly, and people are warm and friendly. Visiting a candlelit cheese shop was by far one of my favorite moments, and leaving with many of the owner’s recommendations by far the tastiest.
I finally get Chimay and frites with mayonnaise. Love them! And I’m fairly sure everyone back home will welcome Belgian chocolates and beer as gifts, as long as I get them on the plane.
Spent my last day in Europe with Siddique and his family at home, where his wife prepared a wonderful meal and I gave him a ring I bought in Athens. I’ll never forget the heartbreaking look on his face as he dropped me at the airport and said goodbye.
Brussels is where I started my journey, and it is here I end it.