Europe | Benelux | Belgium | Brussels – Chocolate and Beer, Chocolate and Beer.
Monday we finally got on a train and started our adventuring. Mary Helen had to see a doctor first, and then we stopped by the pharmacy, and finally we are on the way to Brussels.
Brussels is about an hour from Lille by train. We arrived, and had to find a hotel. Brussels is a very business oriented city, so hotels do not come cheap. We found one for 100, and decided that was a winner. After Marie Paule’s house, this is such a luxury staying here. There is hot water – and shower pressure! I took two showers, one Monday night and one Tuesday morning, just to enjoy them.
After choosing a hotel, we started our touristing. First off was Manikin Pis – Say it out loud – and that is exactly what it is. There are many different stories about how a little boy emptying his bladder saved the city, but they all end the same way – with the mayor idolizing him in statue form. And now the little boy gets adored by tourists and dressed up for holidays by the locals.
Next is walking around Brussels looking for open museums. In Europe, we learn that a lot of stuff is closed on Mondays, including all the museums. While wandering, we passed the Palais Royal (Royal Palace) and Le parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Central Park) a public garden area. The shrubbery that created the forms of the structured gardens around the Palace were interesting in that they was not made up of one kind of bush, but many different kinds of bushes all hedged together into the desired shape.
The trees in the parc de Bruxelles were pollarded into a pattern where they could train the remaining branches into a grid pattern. As the trip through Belgium and France continued, I saw TONS of very heavily pollarded trees, and heavily pruned shrubs. It made me wonder if the French took out their frustrations in life by pruning their trees very harshly.
Word of the day:
1. A tree whose branches have been cut back, in order to produce a crown of shoots at the top of the trunk, so as to be out of reach of grazing animals, or for periodic harvesting for firewood or fencing, etc.
2. An animal whose horns have been removed.
After admiring their gardens, we start on a chocolate tour. First off is to find the Wittamer Chocolatier store. It is listed by the guide book as the ‘best’. It was Wonderful! Next we found the Marcolini Chocolitier, followed by the Godiva Chocolatier Shop. Yum yum yum!
We wander our way back through the old town and return to the hotel. Mary settles down for a nap to rest her eyes, and I continued out to the Tapestry Museum and the Lace Museum. Belgium is known for their tapestries and their lace, and I can see why.
As evening begins, we still are on the quest for the Grand Place – the Grand Marketplace. Finally on our way to dinner we realize that we found it – it was the first place we took pictures of when we arrived; we just didn’t realize than that it was the Grand Place.
We found dinner in the Ilot Sacré, an alley filled with restaurants. Each restaurant had a caller out front trying to entice customers inside in whatever language they needed to hear to entice them. Mary had a bowl of mussels in a white wine (moules in vin blanc), and I indulged in a leg of rabbit in a beer sauce (lapin a la guerze). Yum.
Tuesday we woke up and after falling down the stairs, had breakfast at the hotel. Pan, croissants, butter, confecture (jelly), nutella (chocolate spread), juice and café. We left the hotel and proceeded to the Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Royal Arts of Belgium Museum) to see the Fernand Khnopff. This is followed by the Chocolate Museum, followed by the Beer Museum. Walking the streets, it seems like every other store is a chocolate store, lace store, or restaurant. Nice town.
We made it to the post office, where Mary Helen managed to fall up the stairs, but the stairs were so shallow, it was more like she was just lying on a sloped floor. it was only .57 to mail a postcard to the states, but it took them three to four weeks to get to the states. It will cost me .90 to mail a postcard from France to the USA, but some of them will manage to get there in four days. Other things were cheaper in Belgium as well, like the chocolate (and better!) and the Italian crevats (neckties), but since I didn’t know then how much cheaper (except the hotel rooms) things are in Brussels than I would find them in France, I didn’t take full advantage of them. Next time, I’m bringing a suitcase just for the chocolates, yum!
Visit Mary Helen’s page on Brussels at: http://www.worldsurface.com/browse/live-diary-page.asp?livediarypageid=1446