24 hours in Brussels

 
DSC_2764.jpg

Belgium is an underrated country and I unfortunately only got to explore the city of Brussels for a day. Early in the morning, we ventured the city without any expectations. Brussels also known as the city of comics, had a quiet yet playful ambiance. The first half of the day started with a hot fresh Belgium waffle with a simple spread of Nutella and strawberries. Nothing can beat a chewy and flavorful waffle for breakfast and it wasn’t long until we devoured 2 more. In less than 24 hours, we were able to hit a few key spots without any trouble.

DSC_2769.jpg

Grand Place

The Grand Place is a market bloomed with restaurants and chocolate stores. It is a must see when you visit because once you enter the square, you are surrounded by architecture that is ornately decorated in gold. A true work of art. Not only that, in the evening, there would be a light show celebrating the holiday festivities.

DSC02627.jpg

The Comic Book Museum

On a whim, we decided to check out the comic book museum and soon discovered that Brussels was the hometown of Tintin and the Smurfs! Granted, a majority of the comic strips were in Dutch or French but it was fascinating to see the evolution of the childhood comics we grew up with

DSC_2784.jpg

Sample the Chocolate

There's a reason why we know the word “Belgian Chocolate”. Brussels does not disappoint when it comes to these sweet desserts. My suggestion is to check out the many stores in the streets and sample the chocolate. They range in flavors, style, and prices which give you a lot of options for gifts.

DSC02660.jpg

Mussel and Frites

Through some research, I learned that a common specialty was eating mussel and fries. We felt like it was appropriate after so much chocolate.

DSC_2801.jpg

The Royal Palace is almost a must-visit when you visit any European city. We were not able to go inside but it was a beautiful sight to see. A thin layer of snow dusted the sidewalks and the streets never felt more homey. I loved visiting Brussels despite the limited time I had, My future plans would be to explore more of the outskirts to the old towns or countryside.  Check out our one day vlog below! 

 

Cambridge University

 

Never in my life did I think I was going to visit the historical Cambridge University. Why? I never thought it was a school of interest or a landmark to see. But after visiting, I have decided that if you visit London, you must visit Cambridge. 

We took an early morning bus from London and arrived a few hours before noon. 

The juxtaposition of London and Cambridge was a delightful surprise. Perhaps it was because students were gone for Christmas break resulting a very quiet but comfortable vibe. The weekend farmers market covered the city center selling winter apparel, homemade baked goods, and Christmas decor. 

Of course, after an early morning of traveling, we found ourselves in a breakfast inn next to Cambridge University serving a Traditional English Breakfast: beans, eggs, toast, scones, and (of course) english breakfast tea. One of the best feelings is eating breakfast feeling cozy and warm on a chilly winter day.

We really didn't have an itinerary so we wandered and explored. The deeper we walked into the campus, the more I fell in love. I started to play in my mind what life would be like if I studied here. Probably stressed out 99% of the time lets be honest. 

I could not fathom how historical and special the campus is. I mean, Sir Issac Newton developed the theory of gravity here. The original publication of Alan Alexander Milne's Winni the Pooh is currently in the Cambridge library, and Stephen Hawking chose to  pursue his PHD on time. Later that evening, we watch the Theory of Everything. 

We were very fortunate to go on a punting tour hosted by Cambridge students. The tour covered a good majority of campus and we learned about different school rivalries within the campus. I immediately thought of Harry Potter's house rivalries. Oh the nostalgia. 

To cap a wonderful day trip, we spent the evening eating at a pub and enjoyed some time to write before we took a night bus back home. I wouldn't have asked for a better first-time visit.

Although I wondered how the campus would look in the spring, the quiet chilly campus was a unique experience. I'm pretty sure we weren't allowed to walk on some parts of the campus but no one was there to catch us ;D There is so much beauty in the unconventional times of the year and I find it more special to explore then. 

Hope all finds you well and until next time, keep exploring! 

"Life would be tragic if it weren't funny" -Stephen Hawking 

 

15 hours in Madrid

 

What I loved most about Madrid is how culturally authentic the city is. The city had a peaceful ambiance. Perhaps it was because we didn't have any expectations, but I found myself loving it more than I expected. Compared to Barcelona, Madrid had more locals who could not speak English. Personally, I found it refreshing to walk down the streets where our conversations couldn't be understood by others. The language barrier acting as a layer of privacy. 

We arrived at dawn when the early-morning joggers had just begun to tie their shoes for a run. All I had was my backpack and Google maps to take us to Park Retiro for the sunrise. Unfortunately for the both of us, we lacked a sense of direction and had taken a "sunrise shot on the wrong side of the horizon. Fortunately, we realized this before it was too late.

There are two main parts that you need to visit: The Crystal Palace and the Lake; where you will get a glimpse of the sun peeking from the Earth's horizon. 

Its time to see all its magic, and to remind ourselves of it when we have forgotten

It was not long before the sun rose and lit the city for a new day. We roamed the wide and clean streets toward Plaza Mayor and the Central Palace. Churros and bread stalls populated the Winter markets. 

We stumbled on a cultural dance in front of the Central Palace. The elderly sang and played their unique instruments while the youth danced with their little red dresses. Nothing could have beat the humble feeling of comfort and cultural pride I felt for them. One of the main reasons why I love traveling during the winter season in Europe is because of the warm festivities. The happiness and spirit would brighten the cold weather, bringing a special and beautiful comfort. 

We sadly only had one day in this beautiful city but we took every minute exploring parks, churches, and of course, food. I had my first oysters in Madrid! Interestingly enough, we found a botanical garden (which had few blooms) and also waited in line for the Museo del Prado. This museum is a MUST see. Inside has masterpieces such as Velazquez's Las Meninas, Boche's Garden of Earthly Delights, Goya's Saturn, and many more. I fully regret not going earlier. The museum was such a beauty architecturally both exterior and interior. 

If I had the chance, I would take an extra week to live in Madrid. The city vibes are so tranquil and for anyone who loves to live in solitude, Madrid has that space and spirit. Until next time! 

Feel free to subscribe and follow my Instagram to keep up with my travels!