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A European Engagement: ​ Brussels & Amsterdam

After a full morning of riding trains from Germany, we arrived in Brussels at about 6pm. The air bnb we stayed in looked like a vacation home with a beautiful view from the balcony.

That night we cooked some dinner at the air bnb and did some laundry we had really needed to do since we were pretty exhausted from the travel.

 {pro tip: check ahead of time at your air bnb if they will have the proper materials needed to do laundry for a longer trip like this because it will save a more expensive trip to the laundry mat}. 
Doing our laundry turned into a bit of a fiasco because we could not read any of the words on the washer/dryer and had to guess what would be best after google translate was not the most helpful. After about two hours of our clothes in the dryer, they somehow came out more wet than they went in, so we had to hang them outside instead.

Our full day in Brussels was a lot cooler than expected, so we had to change our plans a bit. Originally we had planned to buy the ticket for 30 euros that would allow us to go into the Atomium, Oceade water park, and Mini Europe, but instead we opted not to go to the water park, since it was only about 60 degrees out.

Maybe next time Oceade...

I was really looking forward to this fun break, so I was pretty bummed we were not doing the water park, but we still got to see the Atomium and venture through Mini Europe.

The Atomium reminded me of the Epcot ball and made me miss Disney all over again.

Mini Europe was a small little theme park where you can venture around to different European country models and learn some historical facts. We found it hilarious and we enjoyed wandering around the exhibits and playing. We got to see the miniature versions of some of the European sites we had already seen in normal scale, some of the sites we would see the following week, and some places we didn't get to visit at all.

Mt Vesuvius eruption

Tearing down the Berlin Wall and below and actual piece of Berlin Wall

Launch of a space shuttle

Little baby Acropolis and Eiffle Tower

The attention to little details were amazing though.

Hey Amy, Vicki, and Molly!

So little effort to hold up this tiny Leaning Tower of Pisa

Bull fighting in Barcelona

Pictured below is the Grand-Place in Brussels... now that we've seen the mini version, should we go see the real one?

From here we took the tram to the (real) Grand-Place, on the hunt for the incredible view, as well as some tasty Belgian treats.

Our first pit stop was to St. Michaels Cathedral right in the city square. Mike was pretty excited to see his cathedral, he didn't even realize they had named after him...

Our next stop was for a little lunch at Fritland. We had heard about Fritlands' amazing Belgian french fries, but what I did not know was they also have some really unique other options. We got a delicious deep fried taco which had many flavors and Indian spices, and the hamburger sandwich, with sweet sauce, reminding me of chicken tikka. And of course we had to get some fries with mayo (I couldn't eat them with the mayo but Mike said it was very European tasting), all for about 13 euros! Anyone who knows me knows French fries are my absolute favorite, but they gave us so many fries that I was pretty set for the rest of the trip on fries after this.

The Grand-Place was just around the corner, and it was really beautiful, however, there was a big concert taking over most of the square when we visited. The gold decorations stand out against the baroque styled buildings, leaving a beautiful contrast, especially when the sun catches the light just right.

The last stop of our touristy must sees in Brussels was the infamous Manneken Pis, which is pretty much what it sounds like, a statue of a little man peeing. I have no idea why this is famous, and I honestly felt a little weird taking a picture with it. He is usually dressed up in one of his 900 costumes, but they were currently on display in museum instead of on his body.

The street where Manneken Pis is located is covered in chocolate and waffle shops. Planning to eat some waffles a little later, we focused on finding the best deal for some Belgium chocolate. A little shop called Leonidas was offering 250 grams of chocolate (about 16-18 pieces) for $6.45 euros, so we picked out our favorites to try with the help of the super friendly clerk. Belgium chocolate is a little harder than the melt in your mouth chocolate of Switzerland, but we still ate almost half of the box in one sitting.

After a little rest time back at our air bnb, it was time to venture back out for some dinner. Feeling ready for some waffles, but a little sick of sweet after our chocolate indulgence, we headed to The Waffle Factory to test our their savory waffles. Since they were out of most everything, we ended up with the campingnon waffle, full of tomato, basil, mozzarella, and European bacon (aka ham). It was so, so yummy and I really recommend it, but maybe go earlier in the day before they run out of ingredients so you can have your pick.

We also had our sights on some croquettes and walked to a bar in our area, the Laboureur, which we were told was one of the best places to find them, however, the staff informed us they do not make croquettes on Monday's or Thursday's (even though it was Tuesday and the staff seemed slightly inebriated, and I am still not entirely sure what was going on there), so Mike tried a Belgium beer instead.

On the way back to our air bnb for the night, we stopped at a small convenience store nearby called Express (which were like a 7/11 and we loved them!), where we found frozen croquettes, and decided to give them a try.

They sort of tasted like a mozzarella stick but with a baked potato texture inside, and I do love potato, so I was absolutely ok with them!

Since we had another full day in Brussels, we decided to take the train about 3 hours to Amsterdam in the Netherlands (this also was a free train for us with our global Eurail passed). When we arrived in Amsterdam, the weather could not have been worse. It was cold, rainy, and extremely windy, so our plans become a little more about the essentials.

First stop was for lunch, where we took the tram to a small food market called Foodhallen.

There, we snacked on some pork buns,pork gyoza, and Shanghai dumplings from Dim Sum Thing (so good!).

In the Netherlands, a popular dish is the bitterballen. In Foodhallen we tried some of the beef bitterballen from De Ballenbar, and they were absolutely incredible! The inside reminded me of the chicken and dumplings dish my mom makes but with beef. I could have eaten at least 10.

On our tram to the next stop of our visit we ventured past Dam Square, but it was too wet us to actually get off the tram and check it out. We also had planned to do a canal tour, another thing Amsterdam is famous for, however, with this weather it didn't seem like the best option, but we did get to see a few of the canals.

When we had originally planned the trip to Amsterdam, I began reading "The Diary of a Young Girl", or Anne Franks diary and had not finished the book until the train ride to Amsterdam. The book explains in full detail what it was like for Jews and those in hiding during those challenging times, and praises the heroes that helped those in need.

The secret annex is where Anne and her family (as well as four other jews) hid during WWII until they were discovered (due to a tip off) and arrested on August 3, 1944 and forced into different concentration camps where sadly, none other than Otto Frank (Anne's father) survived.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside the museum so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say it was incredibly moving to be inside that very space that Anne speaks about in her diary. It is rather cramped, so moving about with all the other museum visitors is something that requires patience. Seeing the bookcase which served as the hidden door to the entrance of the annex was one of the most moving moments for me (attached you will see a photos from Google). 

The furnishing was removed from the home when the Nazis invaded, and Otto Frank asked that it remained that way, but there were a few personal items from each individual living there preserved in the space such as a board game of Peters and a Latin lesson from Margot.

I would highly recommend this preservation of history to anyone, but I also cannot encourage you enough to read "Anne Franks Diary of a Young Girl" before or after the experience to really get the entire picture of the importance. 

One last thing we wanted to see in Amsterdam was the iamsterdam sign, which was absolutely crawling with tourists.

Directly behind the sign is the Rijksmuseum Museum, which houses some of Van Goughs work.

Amsterdam was a bit of a whirlwind since we only had about 4 hours on the ground to see it all, and even less time with the weather being the way it was, but what a great four hours it was!

Back in Brussels for the night, we had a little dinner before heading back out to Manneken Pis street to get some waffles for dessert (we also ended up with more french fries too, oops!).

 Oh my gosh, this waffle was perfection. It was warm and dusted in powdered sugar which had caramelized a bit, and all for 1 euro!

The rest of the night consisted of packing up for our train trip to our next and final stop, Paris!

Be sure to subscribe to see all of our amazing adventures in Paris including the Bastille Day fireworks and Disneyland Paris!

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