Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brussels, Belguim

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday morning we drove from Eindhoven to Brussels. It wasn't long before we were at the Belgium border. I called a few hotels to get rates. We chose to stay at Hotel Ibis near Grand’Place on Grasmarkt. There is an underground parking garage next to the hotel for 15 Euros/day. The tourism office we went to was no help since they were for Flanders, the area of Belgium near the North Sea.
Brussel’s Grand’Place is beautiful. The cobbled square is surrounded by gabled houses and grand civic buildings. The town hall has a 300 foot tall tower and was hosting a wedding. The Belgian government demands that all marriages first be performed in simple ceremonies.

Most people know Belgium for their chocolates. There is no shortage for chocolate shops. Here is Godiva’s original storefront on Grand Place since 1926.
We walked around looking for a good place for lunch. We ended up on Rue des Bouchers, “Restaurant Row.”

We went to Aux Armes de Bruxelles, a venerable restaurant serving reliably good food  in a dressy setting (which made us a little uncomfortable). Joe had shrimp crockets and we shared my mussels in red sauce. Belgians will not serve you tap water so you might as well order beer. My mussels were amazing. The sauce was really good. Joe will be attempting to recreate it back home with mussels from Taylor’s Shellfish on Chuckanut.

Galeries Royales St. Hubert is Europe’s oldest still-operating shopping mall, built in 1847. This glass-covered model inspired many other malls.
There were many specialty beer shops selling the best of Belgian beer.

The Bourse (Stock Exchange) oozes Neo revival everything.
Art Nouveau canopy.
Manneken Pis is this city’s mascot. It is a bronze fountain statue of a little boy, urinating on rue de l'Etuve, 3 blocks off Grand Place. He can often be found wearing some clever outfit, but not today. He owns 700 different costumes from around the world. The statue was made in 1619 to provide drinking water for the neighborhood. Joes reaction when we finally saw it, “It’s so little!” That’s what he said…

Tour d’Angle (Corner Tower) is a rare surviving section of Brussels’ 13th century city wall and was one of seven gates along the 2.5 mile long wall that enclosed Brussels.
Fun street full of outdoor cafes.
Notre-Dame du Sablon Church. Inside the next to the altar is a small wooden statue of Mary dressed in white with a lace veil. This is a copy made after Protestant vandals destroyed the original. The original statue was thought to have had miraculous powers that saved the town from plagues. In 1348, when the statue was in Antwerp, it spoke to a godly woman named Beatrix, prompting her to board a boat and steal the statue away from Antwerp. When they tried to stop her, the Mary statue froze the Antwerp citizens in their tracks. Beatrix and the statue were welcomed in Brussels and this church was erected in her honor.

Me in Place Royale.
Art Nouveau architecture.
Palais Royale (Royal Palace), across the street from Parc de Bruxelles.
Parc de Bruxelles is a formal urban park, where we captured a rainbow in a fountain.
More Art Nouveau architecture.
After our long walk, we took a catnap at the hotel before venturing out for dinner and more beer.

A la Mort Subite is a 1920s bar named after a card game. Joe had Westmalle, one of our favorite Trappist beers.  I enjoyed a lambic beer brewed by this establishment (fruity). We also had some meat pâté for early dinner snack.

The beers were good, but we didn't try as many as we wanted though.

Grand Place at night.

We went to Fritland for French frites which had a long line down the street earlier in the day. Belgians eat their fries with mayonnaise, which you have to wonder how they aren’t all fat, especially with such good beer. Their fries taste so good because they're deep-fried twice — once to cook, and once to brown.

I had a waffle with strawberries, bananas, whipped cream and chocolate on Grand Place. It was amazing after a few beers. Great dessert streetfood.

Brussels really didn’t need a whole day. The tour books warn about pick-pocketers. There are beggars everywhere, even the parking garage. The hotel had tons of warnings about leaving anything in the room and making sure to lock the door twice. We wished we had stayed in Bruges instead.

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