Thu 23 Jul 2015 - Thu 23 Jul 2015
23 July 2015
A train snafu almost made me change my destination from Brussels to Liège, but I am so glad that I didn’t! By the time I arrived at noon, I had only four hours to see everything that I wanted to see, so I took my sore feet to the pavement. I grabbed a free map from the tourist kiosk—the gal had mentioned that the Royal Palace was free to visit today, so I headed in that direction.
I was a little distracted by a giant party I discovered. There was loud music and people dancing everywhere amongst a forest of national flags, and many of them had a flag draped over their shoulders like a cape. I lost count of how many different flags I saw. I had no idea what the occasion was, but I wandered in amongst the crowd, taking video.
I assumed at the time that it was connected with either NATO or the EU, both of which are headquartered in Brussels, but I found out later (when I stopped a man wearing a British flag who turned out to be very very Scottish) that it was all about Tomorrowland, a huge music festival. Apparently, the Flanders area has tons of music festivals.
I wandered around a bit looking for the Royal Palace, but couldn’t seem to find it. How I couldn’t find a Palace, I don’t know, but I *did* find the Musical Instrument Museum. I spent far longer in there than I should have, snapping a few special photos for my musician friends and family. As I walked, I had constant flashbacks to my high school/UH French classes; it was the last time that I’d actually heard the language spoken!
With barely two hours left, I decided to give up on the Palace. There was a lot more to see, and I was not leaving without sampling as much touristy “authentic” Belgian food as possible—a waffle, fries with mayo, chocolate, and, of course, Belgian beer. (Those of you who know me well are probably shocked at the beer I’ve been sampling. Believe me, so am I!)
I visited the Manneken Pis…
As promised. A statue of a little boy peeing, one of the most famous sights in Brussels. There are several stories claiming to explain this statue. Read them here: http://www.brusselslife.be/en/article/the-legends-of-the-peeing-kid
See how small he really is? BTW--this is not a pedestrian area. Can you imagine trying to drive through all of these tourists? We thought Waikiki was bad!
…and Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site…
Of course it doesn't look like a square in a panoramic shot, but it gives you some idea of the height and majesty of the buildings, as well as the variety in their architecture, which spans four centuries.
The Town Hall.
I'm honestly not sure what building this is, specifically.
The building with the golden horse, and the buildings surrounding it are guildhalls.
…bought a few chocolates, then had lunch:
Yes, that is a chocolate Manneken Pis. I bought it for Kona. The chocolate balls were for me, although they were a bit mushed by the time I was back in Essen.
I hung out a bit longer, purchasing, writing, and posting the postcards to the kiddos, then headed to the train station. It was my last chance for a waffle so I took it. I realize that train station food is… well, train station food, but it’s not like I have a Belgian grandma to make waffles for me from scratch. I purchased a tasty-looking waffle with a bit of chocolate on it.
It turns out that the “bit of chocolate” was a lot more than I thought, and I ended up wearing most of it. I ended this very long day in the bathroom of a slow-moving regional train, trying to scrub chocolate out of my clothes. Not a happy ending, but a beautiful city that I did not see nearly enough of.