Monday, January 22, 2007


I recently took a trip to Belgium via the Eurostar from London to Brussels. The train ride took around 2 1/2 hours. After arriving in Brussels and taking a taxi to my hotel room, I took a walk around to orient myself. (This is always a recommended practice when in a new place) Brussels is home to the European Union and it turns out that my hotel was literally 2 blocks from one of their main buildings, the Berlaymont. As a side note, Bulgaria and Romania were the most recent members of the E.U. as of January 1, 2007.

One of my first stops in the city was the Grand Place, which is a square that some call one of the most beautiful in the world. It was quite striking with the ornate architecture and especially so at night. I also made a visit to see the Toone theater (a famous puppet theater). Unfortunately, no shows were playing while I was there. The theater is located adjacent to a street called Petite rue Bouchers. Also located close to this general vacinity is

Manneken-Pis. He's considered the oldest citizen of Brussels having maintained residence since 1619. It is a cultural icon and is a little boy statue which they dress up depending on the season of the year who is "making water" into the fountain below. There was a rousing New Orleans style jazz band playing various songs and ending with "When the Saints Go Marching In."

It was then on to Notre-Dame-du-Sablon Church, built by 15th century crossbowmen An adjacent park contained a memorial statue with the likenesses of Egmont and Hornes who came to unforntunate demise following their resistance to Spanish tyranny in the 1500s. Interestingly, there are two churches with the forename of Notre Dame in Brussels. The second was Notre-Dame de la Chapelle.

In the evening, I wondered along some of the streets taking in the scenery. I especially enjoyed the area around Petite rue Bouchers. It had lots of neat cafes which reminded me somewhat of parts of Paris. An endearing part of the cafes is the salesmanship of the proprietors. They each stand outside thier restaurant trying their best to persuade you to dine with them. I did in fact eat at an establishment in this area and was thoroughly impressed with the quality.

Chocolate is found in great abundance in many places throughout the city and is of extraordinary quality. Another big thing in Belgium is the eponymous Belgian waffles. I believe I ate waffles on three seperate occasions that weekend. Topped with strawberries and whipped cream makes them even better. Yum!

For the unfamiliar, French is the primary language spoken in Belgium with Flemmish being spoken in the northern part of the country. Flemmish is somewhat similar to German with French influences. In my understanding, the French is due to Napoleon's influence on the country and next door neighbor being proximity to France. Thankfully, people spoke English fairly decently since my French is limited to Parlez vous Anglais (do you speak French), Combien ca coute (how much does it cost), Bonjour (Good Day), Bonsoir (Good evening), merci (thanks), and excusem moi (excuse me).

Grand Place


Brussels Street

Jazz Band

See more photos here.

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