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Hello Friday: Brussels, Obama, and Conditioner

So after a continental breakfast that consisted of cinnamon toast crunch, orange juice, and nescafe decaf coffee (dragged out from the back of a bottom cabinet from a very confused receptionist), I realized that I had officially kicked my jet lag’s ass and told my sister and her co-worker, Ed, that I would go into Brussels with his mom (who had tagged along like me) early today and then meet them for dinner at Chez Leon, a restaurant suggestion from my friend and Oh Merry Beaver! costume designer, Jennifer May Nickel.

Then I called Christian on Skype (seriously, what did the world do before Skype?), then I decided to read a book for an hour before getting up to start my day. Cue waking up at 12:50pm. Apparently, I hadn’t gone as ninja on my jet lag as previously thought. I called the co-worker’s mom, who was about to leave without me, promised to be down in 30 minutes, took the fastest shower known to man, only changed outfits twice (because I’m considerate) and half an hour later I was barreling through the Belgian countryside for a day filled with chocolate shopping, accidentally finding the perfect Christmas gift for Delia, and the Mannequin Pis [pictured above].

All in all, the day was a resounding success, though not without it’s surreal moments:

1) When we walked down the alley of Italian restaurants at Grand Place in order to get to Chez Leon, the Italian waiters standing outside the restaurant all yelled “Obama!” at us and “McCain” at our two white counterparts BOTH times we passed through. Sadly, they were correct about our political affiliations — but still! My sister refused to let me yell back “Mussolini!” — “Ernessa just ignore them,” she said. Then two seconds later a waiter called. “Everything is free!” We had already eaten, but Liz was like, “Really? Free?” “Yes,” he answered. “Because I am so happy for Obama. Obama!” Apparently, she didn’t see that one coming.

2) The hotel here provides shampoo, but not conditioner. I’m still not sure why. But I’d been missing the shop hours in Mons due to jet lag and I was completely determined to hunt down conditioner in Brussels, since my hair is now basically a black brillo pad, sitting on top of my head. Very sad. However, according to my iPhone English to French translator, there’s no such thing as conditioner, so we had to go up to the thin 40yo white man and ask him in English if he carried “conditioner — you know for after the shampoo?” Not only did they carry conditioner (which the just call hair mask for anyone who ever finds themselves in the same situation, but he also pointed me to an expensive French line, especially for black hair. Then suggested that I try an even deeper and more expensive conditioner because it was for “the very dry hair like yours.” The Belgians, I have been discovering throughout my trip, are rather blunt.

3) The waiter at the bar where we waited for Liz and the waiter at Chez Leon both not only only frowned deeply, but also shook their heads when I asked for No Alcohol beer. The guy at Chez Leon wasn’t even aware that they offered it until I pointed it out on the menu. But here’s the crazy thing, the NA beer here is FABULOUS. I mean really good. It tastes exactly like the real thing — and not the Budweiser real thing — but the Belgian real thing. So if you’ve been looking for a good non-alcohol beer in Belgium for whatever reason, try Jupiler, if you can bear the pitying looks from the waiter every time you order another round.

Tomorrow is Bruges, then we’ve decided to go on to London as opposed to Spain, b/c it’s easier. More travel log on Monday. Til then, au revoir.


Mannequin Pis Photo Credit: Justin Green