My last stop on my own personal honeymoon brought me to Belgium…the land of beer, waffles, and mussels. I took the train to Paris and arrived at my Airbnb around 4pm. I was so excited to unpack once I saw how beautiful my master bedroom was in this magnificent bed and breakfast. The bedroom was huge and had statues that looked like they came from all over the world. The master bathroom had a humongous tub and the living room had a beautiful Christmas tree and grand piano. I felt so fancy in my pied a terre!
I took a cab into the center plaza and had a look around. Christmas lights twinkled everywhere and Belgian chocolate shops’ displayed sugary delights, wreaths, and ornaments. The main town square is known to be the most beautiful in all of Europe. When I rounded an alleyway and stumbled upon it, I could definitely see why. In the center of this magnificent square (where Carl Marx and Victor Hugo lived ages ago) was one of the most beautiful and largely decorated Christmas trees I’d ever seen. It was so tall in fact that it looked like the top reached some of the gothic pillars!
All of a sudden people started congregating in the plaza in masses. A light show began that projection mapped all the buildings in the square making them red, green, purple, blue, etc. The lighting was accompanied by beautiful music that echoed off the buildings. It was such an amazing moment and suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt really lonely. Looking around the square I saw lovers kissing, children giggling, and friends laughing. I realized that I had no one to share this amazing experience with. It was one of the first times I had felt downtrodden and alone on this adventure. Instead of ignoring this feeling, I acknowledged it and allowed myself to feel sad. Solo travel can come with its ups and its downs and it’s important to feel them both…so is life. I just had to acknowledge it and then move on.
My first stop in Brussels was doing a three hour beer tasting tour around the city center. I’m usually not a fan of beer, but couldn’t pass up this opportunity to dive into the Belgium culture. My first lesson in beer tasting was that you want a lot of foam in your beer (unlike the American way). This helps you to smell and taste the aroma before you take a real sip. Second, the Belgium people take their beer tasting very seriously. Hence, you should never drink out of a beer bottle and should instead drink out of a fancy glass that has the same brand as your beer. Third, monks make a lot of the beer in Belgium and it is known to be very strong with a high alcohol percentage. Funny how this religious order contributes to inebriation throughout the country 🙂
One of the stops we made was at the Delirium Brewery which has over 3,000 different kinds of beer you can try. The Belgium beer, Delirium, was voted the best beer in the world during the 1978 beer convention in Chicago. At first U.S. officials would not let them enter the contest since the name eluded to the name of the shakes that people get if they consume too much alcohol. The running joke is if you drink Delirium beer you will hallucinate pink elephants. Unfortunately, I did not see any that night.
Our tour guide made it a point for us to cheers and look into each others eyes every time we had a new drink. It was fun to hear the different ways people from all over the world said “cheers.” Our guide explained that the origin of cheersing dated back to the medieval times when families would be feuding but brought together by marriages. At these elaborate receptions many people would try and poison their enemies. Hence, clinking their cups together forcefully would ensure they could trust one another for some of their drinks would go into the other cups. Many people died this way!
After several beers, everyone began opening up and making friends. I ended up going to dinner with a group of people from all over (Brazil, Russia, and someone else from the United States). It was my first time trying their famous moules (mussels) and frites (fries) and holy hell, was I not disappointed!! The moules came with white wine sauce, garlic, and covered in cheese and the frites came with a side of bernaise sauce. Did I die and go to heaven?! Needless to say, the next three days in Belgium that is all I ordered. I had to bask in this delight as long as possible and savor every moment of it!
I also tried their Belgian waffles which are so good but so sweet. I tried a homemade waffle for breakfast topped with hot dark chocolate and Nutella. It’s so amazing to be a grown up and to be able to do these irresponsible things sometimes! Thankfully I’ve been walking around ten miles a day on this trip, so crazily enough I have probably lost weight here.
My last day in Belgium, I traveled by train to Bruges. I must have known in my gut to save the best for last. It was an absolutely freezing day filled with fog (which my guide referred to as pea soup) and rain. My feet were soaked, I could not stop shivering, and my hands were bright red. I was scared that I would not be able to experience the true beauty of this medieval town, but in fact, the fog and crispness almost added to its allure. Bruges is a small, medieval Belgium town that has been well preserved with beautiful canals and bridges running through it. It literally makes you feel like you have stepped back in time and are living in a fairytale. People covered in fur, sipping their hot wine, and cascading about Bruges in horse drawn carriages were common place. In short…it was magical.
Our tour guide took us to some pretty interesting/off the beaten path places. Our first stop was at an old courtyard where the bugunenhueseje community lived centuries ago. This community is similar to nunneries today, but with less strict rules. Women only were allowed to live here and learned trades such as weaving to become valuable members of the society. Many widows of this time would join this community and be accepted. It was one of the first examples of true feminism of its time.
The second thing that I found fascinating was the area our tour guide took us to that are considered “the projects” of Bruges. These adorable little white houses all in a row with beautifully manicured gardens is all public housing. Back in the medieval days this idea came about when the church coaxed rich people into buying/building one of these houses for a poor family. In return this poor family would pray for the rich all day and night, ensuring the rich’s salvation into heaven. This same notion reminded me of the “good karma” philosophy in India. So many members of society would offer money to the poor to get good karma for themselves. In religious institutions it’s sad that you must give only to get. True karma should come to those that know no one is looking and they do good deeds anyways.
Along the way I met a great Indian girl named Rashi. We had become fast friends at the train station when we were taking off from Brussels to Bruges. Rashi is a 25 year old gorgeous girl who happens to be an actress and dancer in India. I got to learn all about the entertainment business over there which was fascinating and I got to share stories of my recent travels to Rishikesh and the Golden Triangle (which apparently locals don’t call it that since she had no clue what I was referring to lol). She talked a lot about her insecurities and how that naturally comes with the talent industry. We also talked a lot about travel and trying to find ourselves through it…not wanting to settle, but not wanting to be lonely either. In the end we determined everyone feels this way and that it feels better knowing you’re not alone in that battle. As I hopped off the train and gave Rashi a hug goodbye in Brussels, she told me that the moment she saw me that day she thought I looked like such a happy person and that she wanted to get to know me. She thought I should know that before we parted ways. I gave her another big hug and thanked her, letting her know that meant more to me than she could ever know. Thank you Rashi and thank you Belgium…what a wonderful way to end this honeymoon. This American girl is coming back home xoxo. As is tradition, below are the top lessons I learned along my journey 🙂
- Sometimes you have to get incredibly lost to be found.
- Silence and solitude are the best way to truly listen to yourself.
- Pay attention to what your body desires and needs. It’s important to deliberately be aware of all 5 sources…mental, emotional, energy, spiritual, and physical.
- Everyone is fighting an up hill battle. Have solice that you are not alone in this.
- Use your femininity and sexuality to gain confidence and have fun with it!
- Take yourself out for a monthly date on the town and enjoy your own company!
- Traveling alone confirms your sense of independence and gives you confidence in your own abilities…everyone should try it at least once!
- Let compliments from strangers wash over you and soak it all in. They are most likely the most earnest since they are not wanting anything back in return.
- You will always run into shitty people in life. Speak your truth and move on. Don’t let them ruin your day.
- Do not decide to buy and break in a new pair of boots on a travel adventure. Opt for your comfy sneakers instead…ouch!
- Drink from your own fountain of abundance. Don’t live your life through a lens of scarcity.