Of seat backs, tray tables, and “Friends”

After months of talking and planning, I’m finally sitting on my bed in a cute two bedroom apartment in Brussels, Belgium. Crazy, right? While I’m keeping a more personal journal throughout my adventures here, I wanted to share a bit publicly for those of you who are anxiously awaiting updates (here’s to you, Grandma). The point of this travel blog, if you will, is to give you a little insider view of the places that I visit — the good, the bad, and the ugly if such a thing exists. My hope is that these stories will inspire you to visit the places on your bucket list, and if your dream destinations coincide with mine, I hope that my experiences help guide yours.

Brussels, Belgium

The Good: Getting here was easy. I took a quick flight from Seattle to Chicago, then a longer leg from Chicago to Brussels. I was initially a little anxious to be flying United given their recent PR disasters, but ended up getting upgraded to seats with free entertainment and extra leg room. Score! I also made friends with a really wonderful flight attendant on the longer flight. Her name is Ming, and she’s one of the friendliest and most honest people I’ve met. We chatted about travel (of course), as well as dogs (duh, do you know me?), our families, and our jobs. When we finally landed this morning it was hard to say goodbye, but I got a picture to remember our pleasant conversations.

My good friend Rob, who is also my travel buddy for the majority of this trip, picked me up at the airport and showed me how to take the train to his sister Emily’s apartment. Emily works for Deloitte in their Brussels office, and she has been so kind to let us stay with her — she’s even joining us later for the Copenhagen leg of our trip! She was at work today so we killed some time walking through the city until she got home. We found a nice cafe to grab coffee, saw a few gorgeous parks, walked by the American embassy, and meandered through a pretty cathedral that I didn’t quite catch the name of. We also ate these things called durams for lunch — envision a very delicious chicken wrap with vegetables and French fries on the inside. SO good. I finally met Emily when she got home from work, and I’m happy to report that she’s just as great as Rob promised. I’m really glad to have her generosity and company as we begin our trip.

The different: I won’t use the word “bad” because there really hasn’t been a terrible experience — just challenges. I’m tired and jet lagged, running on about two hours of sleep in the last 30ish hours, but that was to be expected. I’m also a little nervous about the language barrier — this trip is my first time in a country where I didn’t speak the native language relatively proficiently. Brussels is very EU-focused which means that you get a little bit of all of the European languages, but mostly French. People aren’t mean about it here and are generally happy to speak to you in broken English, but it would be nice to have a few more words than “Bonjour” or “merci” in my back pocket since it shows good faith and respect for the culture. For now, the only thing my brain is capable of is playing that scene from Friends where Phoebe tries to help Joey practice French for an audition and he keeps butchering “Je m’appelle Claude” over and over again. Oops.

We’re kicking off the day tomorrow with a walking tour through more parts of the city, which I look forward to as license to eat as much Belgian chocolate as I want. Then we have another free day here until we head to Paris. Perhaps it would be best spent taking a crash course in French.

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