(In the middle of Place Jourdan,
no phone or address needed)
We took our nap through the lunch 2 hours, and we got up to get some sunlight on our faces, and try to adjust to the 7 hour ahead time change. We also needed to find an ATM and get some euros to for our trip. Before leaving the USA, I did exchange money for 100 euros seed money to get us on the train and something to eat, but 100 euros wouldn't get us too far in this world city. Luckily, there is a great ATM at Central Station (on the subway side not the train side) that seems to take all networks, and seemed to be able to dispense at least 600 euro at a time. The ATM at the Brussels airport had a limit of 200 euro per transaction, and my bank charges $15 per foreign ATM transaction, so I really wanted to take money out once or twice and save on transaction fees, and the Brussels airport ATM did not dispense enough to make my transaction worthwhile.
With euros in hand, we made our way a tourist junk shop, and found a walking map of Brussels with the Flemish street names. Ahhh, much better. We were ready to look around the town. We went to Central Station to get our subway tickets form the manned ticket booth to go a few stops to Place Jourdan, and neighborhood in Brussels that looks quite livable, and near the European Union Parliament. The situation about getting subway tickets is that you need euro coins or a Europe ready "chip and pin" credit card, not the old fashioned swipe strip and sign system we have in the USA. I tried replacing my card with a Europe ready card, but no one I talked to in at the USA 800 number had a clue about what I was talking about. At anyrate, since we just landed, and had only a few coins and a bunch of paper euros, we needed a manned ticket booth to buy tickets for the subway. Luckily, we were staying near the station that seems to be quite well staffed, and we got our multi-ride tickets from the manned booth. We heard the subway train coming, so we took our tickets and ran to the subway train.
What do we do with the tickets? There are no turn-stiles, there are no conductors on the subway, how does Brussels mass transit know we took a ride? It turns out, there seems to be the honor system. There is a little orange box on the wall near the subway stairs that validates the ride ticket. We did not see the orange box on our 1st ride, but every other ride we validated our ticket. We noticed some people validated, and some others did not. There were a couple outpost stations that we went to, and noticed people not validating any ticket and just getting on the subway. Can anyone tell me what the appropriate payment and validation protocol is for riding the Brussels subway? Are there people who get to ride for free? Are there people with monthly passes, who need not swipe their tickets? Are there free ride days or hours?
Anyway, we got off at the subway stop closest to Place Jourdan, the home of Maison Antoine - the world's most famous Belgian Frites stand. We had no idea what we were looking for because the Brussels guide book did not give an address, just that Maison Antoine was located in Place Jourdan, an area with about 7 feeder streets leading into this little triangular shaped place. We walked all up and down all the feeder streets for about a block, not seeing Maison Antoine. We criss-crossed the triangle multiple times, and then we stopped in the middle of the triangle next to a little boy statue to consult the map, and wonder if this famous frites place might have closed. To laugh at ourselves, as we were about to give up we looked up and there it was, The Maison Antoine. :) Maison Antoine was not a store front, rather it is a small stand that makes up the very center triangle of Place Jourdan.
Belgian Frites are not French fries. Belgian Frites are shaped like large French Fries, flash fried and then set up on the shelf until someone orders frites, and then the flash fried Frites are then deep fried again until done. They dump the twice fried frites in a big steel bowl, and gently toss with a little salt. This makes for a really delightful crunchy outside, and perfectly done inside. The finished frites are wrapped in a cone shaped paper for easy handling. The Belgian Frites at Maison Antoine are served with a sauce, mayonnaise is standard, but Maison Antoine offers dozens of other types of sauces (many are mayo based). Matt opted for the traditional mayonnaise, and I opted for the tartare maison which had herbs and garlic in it. For 1.90 euros, a huge paper cone of frites could be yours! There are so many frites per cone, I would suggest sharing a cone. These frites are so good! I enjoyed these frites so much that we went back again to eat these yummies!