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Traveling to Brussels, Belgium and Day 1 of Our Trip!

It’s time to commence the Europe trip recaps. My grandmother will be very happy because she’s been asking me about the pictures and eager for me to post more about the trip! My first visits to Europe were with my grandmother when I was in middle school and high school. It was really crazy to be back in the same places nearly 20 years later and to feel flashbacks of those special trips with her.

We were only there for six full days and I think that will end up translating into 4-5 posts depending on if I break Amsterdam into two posts. (Spoiler alert: I LOVED Amsterdam and left wanting to get an apartment there for a month and work on writing projects…one can dream.)

So here’s recap #1 which will cover travel over and our first day…including how we beat jet lag.

flying JFK to BRU

As I mentioned in a previous post (or two!), we flew American to JFK and Delta to Brussels and ended up saving time (flying out of Charlotte had two stops) and over $1,000 combined on the tickets. This whole process was super smooth. I made sure to give us plenty of time to make the connection in JFK when I booked the flights. Our overnight flight to Brussels departed at 7:15 p.m. and everything ran smoothly and on-time.

delta economy comfort+

I upgraded our tickets to Delta Economy Comfort+ on the way for a little extra leg room since we were going to be trying to sleep on this flight. I would say it was worth it for the trip over but I’m glad we skipped it on the way back.

delta dinner international flight

Isn’t this the most appetizing photo of plane food ever? Dinner was served about an hour into our trip and I was pleasantly surprised with the stuffed chicken that I selected. It was super tender and tasty and came alongside mashed potatoes and a corn and pepper mix. There was also a side salad, a quinoa/feta/olive/artichoke salad and a roll. I skipped the roll and the packaged dessert thing. I did not skip a glass of red wine. πŸ˜‰ #vacationmode

Shortly after dinner I headed to the lavatory and brushed my teeth, wiped down my face with a cleansing cloth and applied a thick layer of moisturizer to combat the dry cabin air. I headed back to my seat and watched half of a movie before deciding to try and sleep. The flight was only 6 hours and 45 minutes so sleeping time was minimal.

sleeping on international flights

I think I slept on and off for the better part of four hours. I slept through the cabin wake up and breakfast box and finally started to rouse as we were beginning our descent into Brussels. Wasn’t Tanner sweet to take this picture? I wore an eye mask and earplugs to sleep.

arriving in BRU

Deplaning in Brussels was super easy and so was clearing immigration/customs. Our baggage arrived quickly and our friend Lina was waiting for us with her adorable son! (You’ll see more pics of him soon!) We hadn’t seen each other since December so it was a wonderful reunion.

We went straight to Lina’s apartment where Tanner checked out the view and we made a cup of coffee and I ate breakfast. We made a pact not to nap when we arrived because it’s been my experience in the past that I feel like death after and so foggy/groggy.

We got settled into the guest room. Lina was SO sweet to decorate the bed for me and to leave me a birthday gift. We arrived on Thursday and my birthday was on Friday.

We made a group decision to go to the athletic club that Lina and her husband belong to for a workout because I honestly felt like it was the only thing that was going to snap me out of my jet lag…and it did! I did a quick 5K on the treadmill and then Lina and I did wall balls and deadlifts together. I felt like a new person after the workout.

brussels avenue louise

After the gym we went back to Lina’s, showered and got ready for an afternoon/evening out. We took the tram down Avenue Louise and then got off to walk around the city.

Place Poelaert

I cracked up at this random Corona bar off the side of the road at Place Poelaertwith people sunning in lounge chairs in front of it…right in the middle of the city!

Place Poelaert

We took in a view of the city from Place Poelaert before winding down towards the Grand Place.

Brussels Belgium

There were so many charming side streets as we walked with people out at cafes.

Pierre Marcolini

Of course we had to make a stop at Pierre Marcolini for some Belgian chocolates. How could we not? Just look at the gorgeous exterior decor.

Pierre Marcolini

We picked out just a few chocolates to enjoy in the moment and once we got home.

They also had delicious macarons, which little Alejandro can vouch for!

Brussels Belgium

Our walk towards the Grand Place continued.

Grand Place Brussels

And then we arrived in Brussels’ city square. I was totally flooded with memories of being there with my grandmother.

Grand Place Brussels

The Grand Place is so beautiful! It is definitely something that you should see if you visit Brussels. Lina’s husband showed me a video the next day of a lights and music show that they do during the holiday season that looks so stunning.

moule frites in brussels

We grabbed dinner and wine at one of the restaurants along the Grand Place. Of course our first Belgian meal had to be moules frites!

mannekin pis

After diner we strolled over to see the infamous Mannekin Pis and once again I could vividly remember standing there and seeing it with my grandmother many years ago. It seemed bigger then. πŸ˜‰

belgian waffles

We grabbed waffles for one Euro each. Lina said it was a must and we were so glad we tried them!

belgian waffles

My caption for this on Facebook was “not quite wedding cake.” Haha. πŸ™‚

brussels belgium

We decided to walk back to Lina’s apartment rathe than take the tram and it was such a nice way to end the evening. It was probably a 2-3 mile walk. It stays light over there until about 10:30 p.m. this time of year!

Alejandro decided to forgo his stroller towards the end of the walk in favor of shoulder rides and being chased down the sidewalk playing the “got you” game.

Back at Lina’s we stayed up way too late (after midnight!) catching up. I don’t even know how I stayed awake that long but it totally helped me on the jet lag front. I woke up the next morning (my birthday!) feeling really good. That recap is to come next!

Hope you guys enjoyed this peek into our vacation.

When you travel, do you try to taste/order the “localΒ specialty?”Β 

Can you sleep on planes?Β 

Would you choose a Belgian Waffle or Belgian Chocolates?Β (I know that’s mean to ask!)

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • lee June 27, 2017, 9:28 pm

    Yes, I do like to try the local specialties when I travel. In fact, I have a funny story about that. When my parents and I went to Cuba in 2012, my dad was disappointed that I didn’t have some of the black beans at our first lunch in one of the restaurants. At the time, I wasn’t a huge fan of black beans, so I’d passed…but when he expressed his disappointment (“you have to try black beans in Cuba!”), I consented, only to promptly disappoint him again by saying, “they taste like black beans.” For him, the fact we were eating them in Cuba apparently made them taste different, I guess. But we wouldn’t have known unless we tried them. =)

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:17 pm

      Haha, I love this story! That is awesome. Sometimes a bean is a bean πŸ˜‰

  • lelia June 27, 2017, 9:32 pm

    friend – you look so happy. love you!

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:14 pm

      aw, thank you! hope all is well in greenville. happy birthday to your baby girl! xx

  • Nicki June 27, 2017, 11:02 pm

    I love this post and all the pictures! 1) I love local specialties and REALLY love finding local restaurants that aren’t the touristy type πŸ™‚ 2) Can there be an app to match solo flyers who CAN’T sleep on planes so people like myself can have a travel buddy?! Haha! 3) Ok that is mean but I’d go for a Belgian waffle with SPECULOOS!! πŸ™‚

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:14 pm

      Ha! Love your idea about the app. I’m a terrible plane sleeper too but I just forced myself to try.

      Your waffle selection sounds amazing! πŸ™‚

  • Aimee June 28, 2017, 9:59 am

    LOVE all the pictures!! I just flew to Ireland (post coming soon!) and we had kind of a nightmare of a flight there (48 hours of flight delays). The trip coming back was smooth, but I forgot how long customs takes to get back into the US – OVER 3 HOURS versus the 3 minutes to get into Ireland! Crazy.

    Those waffles look amazing – I think I know where I need to travel next!

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:13 pm

      Please please come back and share your Ireland post. I traveled there after my senior year of HS and to this day it’s one of my favorite places ever!

      I’m so sorry about your flight delays…especially trying to get there. I hope it didn’t impact the length of your trip!

      Yes, getting back into the US can be a little intense depending where you fly into and what kind of lines you’re facing.

  • Ashley N June 28, 2017, 10:29 am

    Love your photos! What beautiful scenery.

    I have to share – a friend of mine and I took our first BodyPump class after work yesterday. We were SO nervous leading up to it, not sure what to expect. I remembered you had a BodyPump 101-esque post so I read it and shared with my friend. We both felt so much more comfortable going into the class having an idea of what to expect because of your post. I always feel nervous trying a new class/gym but your post helped me get through the door and through the class! Looking forward to the next class and getting the hang of it. πŸ™‚

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:12 pm

      Ahhh yay for BodyPump and I’m so glad that you found my post helpful. I couldn’t agree with you more about the intimidation factor with trying new classes. I recently started doing some FlyWheel classes and I was so nervous about getting my shoes on and bike set up and feet clipped in and all that stuff!

      You’ll pick up BodyPump quickly and if you attend regularly, you’ll see results soon!

  • Mema June 28, 2017, 10:35 am

    Thanks for the memories.

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:11 pm

      Thank YOU for the memories! I love you so much and cherish all of the times and experiences we’ve shared. πŸ™‚ <3

  • Jenny June 28, 2017, 2:17 pm
    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:10 pm

      This was such an interesting read! Thank you for sharing!

  • Liz N. June 28, 2017, 2:49 pm

    I was fortunate to visit Brussels and Paris in 2002 for a business trip to my company’s worldwide headquarters in Brussels. I fell in love with the city. Your pictures of Grand Place brings back so many great memories of exploring the city (all before GPS and social media) and having to wait till getting home to the US to develop my camera’s film (pre-digital cameras). I always try to eat local to anywhere I travel. I can’t choose between the Belgian waffle or the chocolates; it’s like asking me to choose between my right leg or left leg! I could eat my weight in both! I visited Leonidas chocolates while I was there. Brussels was a very hospitable city and I found people to be extremely helpful as a tourist! Even though I didn’t speak French or Flemmish, everyone spoke perfect English.

    • Jen June 29, 2017, 4:08 pm

      Hey Liz – thanks for sharing your experience. I agree that Brussels is a very hospitable city. I felt that people went out of their way to accommodate us and yes, most everyone spoke English…although it was fun to try a bit of French here and there. πŸ™‚

  • Anne July 2, 2017, 11:29 am

    1) I *love* that your grandmother reads your blog;
    2) Brussels is now on the must-visit list;
    3) mmmm…moules frites…

  • Elizabeth Speck July 5, 2017, 1:20 pm

    If you ever go back to Brussels they have a City Museum with all of these costumes that other countries have donated for the Mannekin Pis that are pretty funny. Some group even donated an Elvis Costume for him. Loved all of these pictures!

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