Last weekend was pretty epic.
My first match du football was on Thursday night; met some more Belgians on Friday night, visited Bruges on Saturday and went to three festivals in Brussels on Sunday.
Le match du foot
King Baudouin Stadium was full of Americans for the match as the full 30 or so people on our study abroad program were in attendance. We took up an entire section, though we blended in well as we had dressed for the occasion in our Belgian black, red and yellow. America knows how to sport, especially given that we are college students. Patriotism and school spirit are our specialty and you could tell.
I was disappointed with myself because we had spent the morning in the city center picking out the appropriate gear for the game, yet I forgot to grab the Belgian flag I purchased before leaving home.
Honestly, I even forgot my ticket to the game and had to run back to the house after we’d walked halfway to the bus stop. I was physically in my room again and still didn’t note the huge Belgian flag on my bed that I so wanted to wear.
So I went to the game in full black. There were no other Belgian colors on me, save for the face paint that one of our program coordinators put on our faces, God bless.
I will be bringing this flag sporadically to bars around the city now because I didn’t on this day, just wait.
Waffles and Speculoos
All things considered, our trip downtown was productive in other ways aside from the purchasing of Belgian colored things. I got the waffle that I’d been craving and some cookies from my absolute favorite cookie place in Brussels, Maison Dandoy.
I ate all of them later that day in my three hour global advocacy class. It was one of those days, but also I don’t feel bad because these cookies are bomb.
The waffle cravings also hit hard because they are very prevalent in the city center, but much less readily available in the neighborhood where I live and all other areas outside of the center in general. Waffles are for the tourists mostly, but I am proud because my preferred waffle is exactly that of what the locals actually eat—a plain liege. These beauties are 1 euro, which is insane, and they are caramelized and have an internal sugariness to them that makes other toppings unnecessary, excessive and the mark of a tourist.
Because the waffle was my breakfast, it soon came time for lunch so I of course brought us to Maison Dandoy for cookies. The speculoos cookies that are so iconic Belgium are the best at Madison Dandoy. I have tried other variants and while I need to try more, I can’t help but continue to buy a bag of the speculoos. They are the perfect travel companion that I carry around in my purse for emergencies (aka boredom or intense cravings during the three hour classes here, which are common).
But I DIGRESS. When it comes to food digressions, never feel guilty. But really, back to the match
Plus sur le match
Upon arrival, I was fascinated though, looking back, not surprised that the main items for purchase were waffles, fries and Jupiler. Classic Brussels.
Though we lost against Spain, the game was enjoyable in the sense that you knew when it was going to end, as is not the case with American football, which tends to drag on.
The post-game exit from the stadium was madness though and made me realize how important the public transportation system is in Brussels. No one was headed off to their cars or intense parking lots and garages as is typically the case at sports events in America. The thousands of people from the stadium all filed up to the metro and if you didn’t think you had claustrophobia, you would now. Bodies are packed like sardines as they descend towards the subway-like metro. It’s madness.
Luckily a Belgian from Antwerp struck up a conversation to pass the time. It was funny because his initial words to me were, are you from Spain? Whenever a Belgian thinks you are anything other than American, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I love America but the connotations are sometimes less than great. To be able to semi-trick a Belgian that I’m from Spain thus makes me momentarily proud.