From the moment we woke up on May 1st at 2am, we were in for a week of adventure, incredible architecture, art beyond belief, and delectable Belgian food.
We base camped in Ghent, at a hotel with buffet breakfast, which we all took advantage of. But spent our days exploring the cities of fairytales (as Jen would say).
Day 1 is travel to Belgium, set up in Ghent, visit the Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece (THE LAST DAY BEFORE IT CLOSED FOR RESTORATION!!), and our first real Belgian meal at Bier Central.
The ultra beautiful Antwerp Central Train station.
Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece "The Lamb of God" 1432
Day 2 is Brussels, Mannequin Piss, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, and the best chocolate I have ever had in my life… which I will come back to.
Day 3 Antwerp, Helen and I venture to see her grandfathers old apartment, passing too many diamond stores on the way to count, and finishing the afternoon at the KMSKA, a museum I fell in love with, so much so, that I actually got stuck in a time warp and ended up being 23 minutes late to meet the group (Again, so sorry).
Day 4 is Bruges, a city that takes you back in time, preserved through both world wars, and with tangible energy that makes me feel like I should be walking down the streets in a gown and wooden clogs.
Michelangelo's Madonna and Child. Stolen numerous times but most recently by the occupying army of Nazi Germany. She plays a large role in the acclaimed film: Monument Men who of course brought her back to where she belongs.
Day 5, we make our way home after a leisurely morning, in which I get to practice my French the whole way to the city of the future: Charleroi.
Ok… but I promised I would come back to the chocolate, and I am a woman of my word, so here it goes:
We are set free for lunch in Brussels, Cadi, Eva, Helen, and I make a beeline back to the Royal Gallery of St Hubert’s?? A hall of stores each with little windows that display the goods of the shop. This hallway is the epitome of what all malls should look like, with sky high ceilings that bring you into the era of Baroque architecture. On top of the beauty of the building itself, at least half of the shops are chocolatiers. We were released at noon and had to meet up at 2, so of course post a quick stop for lunch the only logical remaining thing to do is try all of the chocolate we can get our hands on.
For the next hour and a half we stop into every chocolatier in the gallery, each of us picking a different flavor to try, we must have tested at least 10 different shops, and too many little truffles to count. Everything dark of course… dark chocolate caramel, dark chocolate hazelnut, dark chocolate praline, dark chocolate rose, cherry, basil, ganache, you name it, we tried it in dark chocolate form. We finished our exploration with chocolate dipped strawberries, and practically skipped the whole way back to the meeting point. Sugar high beyond compare, smiling so hard my cheeks hurt, we were all happy, and in need of a serious chocolate break. At least until the next city.
That was an afternoon well spent. And I’m worried I won’t ever be able to enjoy chocolate that isn’t in Belgium the same way as I did before this excursion.