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Amsterdam versus Brussels, others: Euro frites to the death

Posted by Christopher Wink on Nov 11, 2008 in Commentary

Sean enjoying a sausage and fries at Curry 36, a food stall in Berlin, Germany.

Sean enjoying a sausage and fries at Curry 36, a food stall in Berlin, Germany.

I try to avoid American foods when traveling. So I can focus on local delicacies; so I can return home and appreciate it all as I stuff my food bag.

But I had to change plans for one of my favorite American foods: french fries. A handful of European cities have stalls that lay claim to being among the best.

We started the pursuit in Amsterdam and Brussels. Both cities have a rich tradition in French fried potatoes, seriously.

In Amsterdam, Mannekin Pis - like the statue in Brussels, confusingly enough - claims the best fries in Holland - and beyond if you ask the right person.

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Belgians say they developed the technique though. We were sent on a long walk south for the best fries in Brussels. They were good - the sausage burgers weren’t - but not worth world renown (video forthcoming).

Then, at a noted sausage stand in Berlin, we came across some more noted fries - Sean’s favorite on the trip.

I think I have to go with Amsterdam’s. Ooh. eating. Anyone have any good Euro-french-fry eating experiences?

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Foreign Perspectives: Thomas from Belgium

Posted by Christopher Wink on Nov 3, 2008 in Foreign Perspectives

Hostels aren’t just for kids.

You can come across people of all ages. We met Thomas and his wife - from Flemish-dominated northern Belgium - in the Aboriginal Hostel in Budapest, Hungary.

He was smart and engaging. Once he found out we were Americans he was eager to talk to us about politics. He is a big supporter of Ron Paul in the upcoming U.S. presidential election and loved talking global politics and economics.

Watch Sean’s interview with him below.

Read more…

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Foreign Perspectives: Ian from New Zealand

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 21, 2008 in Foreign Perspectives

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If you compared Ian Fulguirinas’ trip to ours, it would look like we took the easy way.  Thats because this Kiwi has eschewed conventional transportation and lodging methods to rely solely on hitchhiking and the generosity of others.  In Brussels, my brother Brian was fortunate enough cross paths with Ian when he went Couch Surfing.

On the morning before we left for Paris, we talked to Ian about his thoughts on American politics and why he doesn’t like rugby.

Apologies for the background noise, the Brussels street repair crew decided 8 a.m. was perfect jackhammering time.

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High school French lives on

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 20, 2008 in Travel Tips

Enjoying chocolate chaud et un sandwich at a cafe near Notre Dame on Oct. 13, 2008.

Enjoying chocolate chaud et un sandwich at a cafe near Notre Dame on Oct. 13, 2008.

We’re in Zurich, roughly the end of a solid week of French-speaking cities - from Brussels, Belgium to Paris and Lyon France.

Roughly a fifth of Switzerland speaks French, but here in Zurich German - the country’s largest national language - is king. A local told me we’d be better off with English than French in this city. Just fine, because, my French is limited.

See… Je parler un peu en francaise.

While in France, Paris to be more precise, We Don’t Speak the Language may be a bit of a misnomer. A little.

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Sometimes you just gotta dance to European techno in Brussels, Belgium

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 13, 2008 in Experiences

Sean and Chris getting down Oct. 11, 2008 in Brussels, Belgium.

Sean and Chris getting down Oct. 11, 2008 in Brussels, Belgium.

Sometimes you just gotta dance. Sean and I got down in one styling Brussels night club after taking the place by storm with three karaoke performances. Sean on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, his brother on the Beatles’ Twist and Shout, and I took We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel. I will point out mine was the only good American music. Ahem.

But, shall we not share some European techno grooving by the two of us below?

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Belgium’s best travel guide: Use-it

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 13, 2008 in Travel Tips

Although we are not that far into our journey, we started to feel that we have exhausted the standard travel resources out there. We utilized couch surfing, cling to our lonely plant guide, and ask the locals as about as much as possible. In a few select European cities, including Brussels, Use-It may very be your new best friend. Use-It is smaller non-profit version of your big travel guides with extra information from locals, and will quickly become the most useful name you know.

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Brussels, Belgium, a review

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 13, 2008 in Commentary

Sean and I in front of the famed Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels, Belgium on Oct. 11.

Brussels wasn’t the first city in its own country - Brughes, Ghent and Ypres were hopping by the 14th century - but at one million strong, it is the modern jewel of Belgium.

Still, it is often called a stop-over. It’s a major hub of transit lines destined north through Amsterdam and south through Paris. We were told that it is boring and without sights to be had. A handful of young, haggard Australian 20-something travelers had Brussels as a resting stop - a few nights of drinking beer and resting for more worthwhile adventure.

Bollox.

Read more…

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France and Brussels have funny keyboards

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 12, 2008 in Commentary

I’m usually a terrible speller, but my stupidy disorder is heightened in Brussells and Paris. Because WiFi spots are hard to come by, we have to duck in the occasional Internet cafe. The cafe’s are made for locals and all of the menus are in French or Dutch. But the real obsticle is the odd keyboard. Because Brussells is home to two languages, French and Dutch, they use the “AZERTY” layout. The AZERTY is very similar to the American except for a few subtle but obnoxious differences.  France, jumps on the AZERTY bandwagon as well.

Seriously, I dare anyone to try typing on this. There’s also the problem of typing using a French spell check that makes every word float on a red squiggly line of grammatical dissaproval, but I suppose that’s another post…

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Brussels, Brussels: One in the other

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 10, 2008 in Education

Right now we’re in Brussels.

Brussels, which is the effective capital of the European Union and the legal capital of Belgium - but they aren’t one and the same.

Belgium, 10.5 million living in a country the size of Maryland, is made of regions, one of which is Brussels, which hosts much of the EU’s governmental infrastructure. Within the regions of Brussels is the Belgian capital, also called Brussels. Sean and I are in the smaller Brussels, within the other.

Think of Los Angeles, a city within Los Angeles county, not coterminous, nor the same political identity but having the same name.

I have also heard it compared to the city of London, which is, in other ways, different than London proper.

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Preconcieved Notions: Brussels, Belgium

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 9, 2008 in Preconceived Notions

We should be in Brussels, Belgium now, trying to nab a hostel, which we didn’t reserve. More fun that way, eh? Let’s see what I expect.

The country of nearly 10.5 million people is small - roughly the size of Maryland, though it has half as many people - and surrounded by two of the continent’s larger countries - France and Germany, both of which have large influences on the United States.

So, by comparison, I haven’t the foggiest conclusions to make about Belgium or its capital city, Brussels, where we are making a stop now.

Yeah, the waffles, Sean is shouting. Before I set foot here, I pictured ancient Gothic architecture and chocolate stores in its urban settings and rolling green pastures in its rural reaches.

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