This is going to be a long one!

Today I woke up to a beautiful day in Brussels, Belgium but unfortunate to say that I was tired when my alarm went off.  Since I didn't want to waste a minute of the one day I had in Belgium and I didn't need to be at Parliament until noon, I got ready and decided to start off by going to the natural caffĂ© just a few door down for a wake up call as I remembered passing it last night.  

 I packed all my stuff up and headed out with my map in hand - the one that I drew lines on to follow with all the locations marked so I could at least ask for help and be pointed in the right direction a little easier.  I had selected two locations of the waffle place I was going to so that way whichever one I ended up at I would get a waffle.  This was at 8:40.  Since I left the hotel later than I had planned, I headed to the cafe and got my coffee to go.  I got a cappuccino - and it came with a dash of cocoa.  I felt a little sad leaving because they presented it on the counter so nicely with a napkin and mint and I wanted to enjoy it with the crowd there but knew I should be on my way.  Nevertheless I can say that it is the best coffee I have ever had.  Oh and by the way, there is a street in Brussels named after me! :)

As I was on my way, I felt pretty good about myself as I was following my directions perfectly and as I checked the streets - the ones with names - they were always right... then I don't know what happened.  So I asked for help - "Parlez-vous anglais o espangole?"  Nope.  She did get me to the next plaza and could show me where I was on my map, just one road off of my line.  Perf!  Then I got lost again and a couple did know English but unfortunately showed me how I was no longer along the line on my map, nor that close.  After heading a block in the "right" direction, I figured out where I was on my map, but heading in the wrong direction.  I then got back on track and was now closer to the further of the two locations of the waffle houses.  

 It was like "hallelujah!" when I finally turned around the right corner and saw it!  Then I yanked on the door and it wouldn't open.  Dang it!  Then I thought this must be the location that didn't open until 10:30 (the other opened at 9:30).  I looked at my phone and it was 10:25.  Seriously - almost a full 2 hours of walking around for a waffle that should have taken 20 minutes, but I was in Belgium and I wanted one because I knew it would be great, right??  There was a lady inside too who wouldn't look at me.  5 minutes!  Not wanted to be the annoying and impatient American, I saw a little ways up a plaza sort of thing where I could easily wast five minutes without the chance of getting lost.  Oh it was a treasure!  It reminded me of the plaza mayor in Madrid and had beautiful architecture.  Along with this, I found many other beatiful gardens and buildings as I got lost - some I have know idea what they were, but sometimes seemingly important for the country of Belgium, but a bright side of my lacking direction skills of the morning.


After taking some pictures, I headed back to the waffle place and pulled on the door.  Closed still! Ugh!  I thought maybe I'd wait for someone to go in or out because I didn't walk 2 hours for no waffle.  As I looked up, the man inside was holding both hands up and mouthing "push".  A miracle!!! If anything, that's my blonde card for the day.  "With that smile you definitely came in for a waffle!" he exclaimed in perfectly good English - another plus!  Not that I don't like learning other languages, but I have zero skill in French, let's be honest.  He suggested a waffle and of course I asked for chocolate on it.

Oh it was delicious and way more than I expected.  The chocolate was perfect and the waffle just melted in your mouth.  Totally worth the walk.  ...and since it took me two hours when it should have taken a half hour tops, I thought I should be on my way so that I would have time to get to the Parliament before noon.  This was much easier of a trip and I also passed the palace and saw a guard march.  I'm not sure if he was doing it for any reason other than to stay awake or alert because he marched 20 feet and then turned around and went back to his post.  This morning I also saw a man on a bike get hit by a taxi - yikes!  I hope this isn't a sign!  Anyhow, it was much easier to get from the waffle place to the EP building than the hotel to the waffle place.  

 I stopped outside of the building to change my shoes, etc and since I still had 15 minutes before 11:45 I thought I'd watch for Frederick before entering because there were security checks inside.  After finding her, I met Cecelia, Natalie, and Anita, (sorry if the names are spelt wrong!) all from Germany and part of the UNAWE group.  As we waited in the security line, it was taking a looonnnggg time, so Frederick just went to the counter, meaning to ask if we were even in the right place.  Two ladies then came up behind her, not happy that she had "cut" in line.  Well, that was just kind of rude because it was just a quick question.  Anyhow, it was decided we needed to eat lunch before going in and would probably have to wait for someone from the group to come get us in the lobby if we had or wanted a chance to even enter the building past security.  So we went to lunch at a little place nearby around a small plaza.  There was some protest going on for cgt and they were lighting off things so we decided to eat inside.  It was very loud and I was a little afraid, but the police were there and they didn't seem to be doing anything about it because there was no violence, just the annoying man with the vuvuzela.  The waitress was also a bit pushy and wanted our group to squish together instead of two tables side by side, though there were only 3 other people inside and plenty of tables.  We then hurried back, as we needed to enter or pass security by one and it was already 12:50.  Oh European's idea of time.  (I was freaking out inside thinking we'd be late since it was already well after noon!)  We then entered a different door and ended up at the right counter and got our visitor badges and entered.  After wandering through the building we finally found the right floor.  Then, walking down a hallway of offices, we magically (almost) arrived to this sort of auditorium/lecture room.  An odd location.  Fortunately we still had time to spare.  

 (check out my blog entry " beach front property there!" for information about the conference meeting.) 

After the conference, Pedro had meetings to be at, so I took a train that was leaving in 40 minutes with two other UNAWE's, Wouter and Franz (that's not his real name, but that's what I'm calling him because I can't say his name correctly).  We headed out, and as we were walking through a park, I commented how I saw this earlier today - 'from the sound of it, you've seen nearly all of Brussels today' was one of their comments... touchĂ©.  I did request though that if we passed this chocolate place we had to stop.  

 I think it was a small chain because I passed similar windows a few times throughout the day that were filled with decadent and mouth watering desserts, pastries and other goodies.  They seemed rather large so I didn't stop before because I didn't really have my hands free to carry extra things.  Unfortunately never passed it, but probably for the better.  (my camera is dead now, but I have a great picture of the chocolates I will post soon)
When we got to the train station, thank goodness they were with me because I had no idea where or how to buy a ticket.  There wasn't a kiosk like at Schipol.  After being directed to another counter, I got a ticket with about 12 minutes to spare so we hustled downstairs and they got hot dogs, but they aren't completely like ours.  We rode the train and had to transfer once.  It was a very short stop, so I know that if I had been by myself, I definitely wouldn't have figured out where to go in time and miss the train.  Then we got back to Leiden but I didn't know how to get from the station to my house.  I knew it wasn't far though.  Holy cow, America needs this: at the train station, there's a magical (well, not really) map machine that you put in an address of where you want to go, and it prints out a map like Google maps with a line on it! No way!  I was ecstatic.  Wouter walked with me for most of my walk home and was really nice and pointed out many places I can stop for food and shop.  I owe him big time because with today's course, I never would have found my way back to Leiden anytime soon.

My next adventure will be groceries.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, there is a market so I'm hoping to be able to check that out.  Hasta pronto!