The week before Thanksgiving, PJ and I traveled to Brussels, Belgium. I was there for a symposium, and PJ came along to see a bit of a country we otherwise had no plans to visit any time soon. It was a nice little trip — we arrived in Brussels on Sunday morning and left bright and early on Thursday.

The weather when we arrived was wet and cold. We walked from the train station to our hotel, which had been arranged by the university hosting the symposium. The organizer had told me that the hotel was in the red light district, which immediately conjured up images from our trip to Amsterdam this past spring. Based on that PJ and I both thought that it would be fine. And it was, but it was also really weird — this was nothing like Amsterdam’s red light district. This area, which seemed to be centered on the block our hotel was on, had women (and a couple of guys) standing every 30 feet or so soliciting customers on the sidewalk. So, there was no way to get to and from our hotel without walking past several “working girls.”

The most awkward part for us was that we weren’t sure at first whether we should say hello as we passed by one of the women or if we should try to ignore her. We tried acknowledging them at first, but that seemed to be the start of a transaction that we were not interested in participating in. Other than that, though, is was fine — definitely something to remember!

My symposium, which was held on Monday and Tuesday, seemed to go really well. I really enjoyed meeting the other participants. And I’ll be getting an article written out of it. All that seems really good!

While I was symposiuming, PJ walked around the city, visited chocolate shops, ate mussels, etc. Since we couldn’t check into our hotel when we arrived at 10 in the morning on Sunday, we walked around a bit, saw the Grand Place, and visited the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. This is one of our pics of the Grand Place:

On Monday, the museums were closed, so PJ had limited options. Even so, we got to see the royal family of Belgium coming out of a cathedral:

Apparently, it was a royal holiday called King’s Feast. In the pictures above are Princesses Claire and Mathilde.

PJ’s pictures of the chocolate shops are wonderful — we brought back a couple of boxes of candy, but they were gone all too quickly. I’m definitely having a difficult time eating American chocolates now! Belgian chocolate is too addictive. I’m going to have to start ordering it online and having it sent to me! Here are just a few of the pictures he took:

We ate really well while in Belgium. We had Thai twice and French twice for dinner. All of them were excellent. PJ had lunch on his own while I was working. He took the following picture of his mussels, which look amazing. I had some for lunch on Wednesday, but mine weren’t as delicious as this picture looks!

Besides the mussels and chocolate, we also enjoyed the Belgian beers we tried — and we tried as many as we could! I now have a new favorite Kriek, a cherry lambic beer. We’re hoping to find something similar while we’re in New York City next week!

We stayed an extra day after the symposium was over so that I could also be a tourist. We took the train up to Bruges, which was a great place to visit too — very early Renaissance. I’ll try to blog about that part of the trip and our museum visits soon.

As an overview, I’d say that it was a fun trip. We got to see a place we wouldn’t otherwise have seen, and we experienced some new things. Now I need some good chocolate ….