We finally made it to Dublin, boarded our flight, and arrived in Brussels. Our hostel was the nicest we have been to yet and was near the city center, but far enough away for it to still be a quiet neighborhood. After checking in, we walked around Grand Place, which is the main square in Brussels and where a lot of the action goes on. There ended up being a festival and there were free concerts going all afternoon. We were determined to eat waffles and found the famous Maison Dandoy, only to be told the tea room was closed due to a large party. We ended up still being able to order waffles and eat them at the bar. It was better than anything I ever expected and I have a whole new appreciation for waffles. We started seeing a bunch of €1 waffle stands everywhere and figured hey, what was one more waffle? We stumbled upon the Manneken Pis, the national symbol of Belgium, which is a statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. I remember learning about it in history class, but the pictures in textbooks make it look so much bigger than it actually is. The statue is literally 2 feet tall. We found it difficult to find things to do in Brussels since it is not much of a sightseeing city. We were trying to bum free wifi outside the back of the McDonalds building when two Belgian girls walked up to us and asked us in French if we had a light for a cigarette. We told them we were American and they apologized and said that we looked like locals - always a plus. Belgium is famous for its beer so we decided to try some before we were hungry enough for dinner. We found a bar called Celtica, but we quickly learned this was where a lot of kids came to drink after school since the drinking age in Belgium is only 16. We found a restaurant that had €12 three-course meals. We thought the meal was cheap until we realized we were charged €7 for the bottle of water. It's easy to forget that some countries charge for this while you are living in a country where it's completely free.
Everyone who we had talked to that had been to Brussels told us that we HAD to go to Delirium Bar. Delirium Tremens is a type of beer brewed in Belgium and was voted the best beer in the world. When we got to the bar, we were able to see why it was so popular. Making up an entire alley were 7 or 8 bars all belonging to Delirium and each one specialized in a different type of alcohol. We wanted to try a Delirium brew before heading back to the hostel. We met a group of Americans from Massachusetts who were studying in the Netherlands and we talked with them awhile before leaving.
We got back into Cork on Saturday evening and Clare had told me she wanted to go on the mountaineering club hike the next morning, so I agreed to go with her. We had been told by a lot of people before coming here that the mountaineering club is a really good way to see the less touristy places of Ireland, so we knew that we wanted to join the club. The hike on Sunday was at Gougane Barra. I came into this thinking that we hiked up paths on the mountains. Wrong. The guide literally just picks a spot and everyone starts climbing. We hiked for about 4 or 5 hours with only one 20 minute break for lunch. I don't know if going up or down was worse. On the way up, I found myself stuck in knee high mud after stepping on moss that disguises itself as hard ground. For about an hour coming back down, we were descending down a steep cliff covered with rocks and knee high grass. You never knew where you were stepping and everyone kept falling. How no one broke a leg is beyond me. I don't know if I was more relieved to reach the top of the mountain or to finally reach the bottom after hours of torture. The views were amazing and I am glad that I went on the hike since it is something that I never would have done back home, but that will definitely be my first and last hike with the mountaineering club.