Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brussels, Belgium

I haven't been to Brussels for twenty years, and so it was a place I was really looking forward to seeing again. We took the train from Paris and arrived mid-afternoon, which gave us a chance to drop off our stuff at the hotel and head to the Grand Place, one of the most beautiful and iconic central squares in Europe.

It was a lot smaller than I remembered, of course. It was the first place I went when I stepped off a flight from Boston to Brussels twenty years ago. We had an eight-hour layover before our flight to Germany, and so the group I was with took a train from the airport to the center of the city and sat in an outdoor cafe in this very square. I soaked it all up, jet-lagged and astonished, and so very excited to have left my home continent for the first time in my life. It was a little colder this time than that first day all those years ago, and the sun was a lot lower in the sky, but it was still beautiful.

Carter  loves these public squares, mostly because it's a place he can run around.

We headed to the Hard Rock Cafe first. My pin collection at the end of this year is going to be pretty amazing!

And then we explored the area around the square a bit.

Belgium is the home of some amazing things, like chocolate.

And waffles, of course! If you've never been to Belgium, the odds are you haven't had a waffle like this. They're mind-blowingly good, and I am more determined than ever to figure out how to make them at home. They have almost a bread-like texture, and there are clumps of melted sugar all inside. They're unbelievably good! You can get them covered in whipped cream or fruit jam or Nutella, but I prefer them just like this. Carter took one bite and said, "My life is so much better now that I've tasted this." 

And of course, Belgium is the home of a lot of beer!

Next we went looking for the Mannequin Pis, one of the most famous fountains in the world. We'd told Carter about this fountain and looked at pictures of it on the internet back in his potty learning days, and he's always remembered it. When we told him he was finally going to see it, he was ecstatic!

And then we found this statue, which combines the Mannequin Pis and waffles. Carter loved it!

The next day was our only full day in Brussels, and so we decided to take an open-top bus tour around the city to see the highlights. I took lots of photos and didn't keep any notes about what I was taking photos of! I will come back to this later and edit in the names, but in the meantime, enjoy some of the sights of Brussels.

This is the Atomium, which was built for the 1958 World's Fair.

Nothing particularly special here; I just loved these streets with their autumn leaves.

This is the Baslica of Koekelberg (or so Google tells me).


I loved the colorful leaves in this park, but also the artfully arranged reclining park chairs.

Also TBA...

We decided to have a late lunch in the center of the city, and followed a Trip Advisor recommendation to a place called Chez Leon.  It was located at the end of a pedestrian street packed with restaurants, all of which seemed to offer a fascinating combination of Italian food and mussels dishes.

It's always fun to have a paper-covered table -- Carter immediately get to work decorating it.

This is some sort of complex ocean food chain. I especially like how the animals have to open their mouths wider and wider as it goes on.

If you've ever had a Belgian lambic ale before, then you know how yummy this drink was.

We had to try the mussels, of course. We chose two different kinds from the menu: one baked with cheese and marinara sauce and the other served with a more traditional garlic and white wine sauce.

After that, we wandered about until we found yet another waffle spot, hit a chocolate store, and then waddled back to our hotel, completely stuffed. The next day we slept in and then took a train to Amsterdam.  I'll try to get the next post up in a couple of days. :-)

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