FROM OUR TRAVEL JOURNAL:
Before this week, if asked could I accurately put my finger on the map in the exact place where Brussels, Belgium was – I’m sure I would have failed miserably. My geography needed LOTS of work!
After visiting Brussels, we have a new appreciation for a city filled with sidewalk cafes, Gothic cathedrals with gargoyles and heaven-reaching spires, so much beautiful architecture and history it boggles my mind, designer stores to rival the best NYC’s 5th Avenue has to offer (Versace, Chanel, Cartier) and all within a friendly, medium-paced city with a mass transit system that makes getting around a breeze. Even if French or Dutch isn’t your primary language. It’s called the Capital of Europe and with it’s amazing buildings, cathedrals and arches, it can certainly claim the title of a capital – but it’s “comfortability factor” (our term for how easy it is to get around to see everything and the tone of the people we’ve met) is a high 9 on a scale of 10!
Belgium Chocolate – Belgium is the home of exquisite chocolate. In the mornings we were served wonderful chocolate hazelnut paste served with apricot jam at our hostel. Yes, we did a lot of walking to make up for that one. Many of the stores along the street have working CHOCOLATE fountains inside. It’s like being in chocolate heaven!
The Grand Place – One of those town squares just stepping into can literally take your breath away. You are surrounded on 4 sides of this huge square by some of the most magnificent Gothic architecture – with stern statues of crusading knights, caricatures of gargoyle faces, and famous people we aren’t sure exactly who they are, but they must have been important to be immortalized on a building, right? It was more than my eyes could take in at first – we stood for a long time just gazing upward and the most intelligent thing I could think of to say was “WOW!”. If you are lucky enough to be around the Grand Place at the right time you might see the beautiful “flower carpet”. Every two years in August, the “flower carpet” is presented in the Grand Place for several days. Truly a beautiful experience! August 2012 is the next display period of the flower carpet. You can check it our here and you will undoubtedly want to see it in person!
Manneken Pis – Along one of the busier thoroughfares, is the famous Manneken Pis. Literally translated to “Little Man Pee”, he’s this adorable statue of a chubby little boy very happily peeing on the streets of Brussels! Legend has it he was sculpted after a child who saved the city by extinguishing an explosive in very much the same manner in which he’s posed today. He’s such a fixture here that the locals dress him up for all types of social occasions — he even has a Mickey Mouse costume!
So Brussels at a glance– the Belgian Beer is strong (GOOD!), the people nice, the chocolate amazing, the sights GRAND. Food has been good, too. Moules Frites (mussels with French fries are a local specialty), so good we’ve had them twice!
Next stop – Paris. It’s only about an hour and half ride from Brussels by train, and we are looking forward to our first train trip through Europe.
How we got there and around town:
We found a great deal on a flight from Ireland to Brussels using CheapOair.com. Although this was our first use of this site, while traveling around Europe we found it to be the best way to track and find the best deals.
Although it was a little off the beaten path – we found a great place to stay. The Beau Site is normally a 10 minute walk from the metro, it took us over 30 minutes because as usual we got lost! You can see some great reviews and pictures at Hostelworld.com
We decided to take the train from Brussels to Paris on Rail Europe. They offer pretty decent deals on either rail passes or one way trips.
Some of the above tips include actual services we used and that we have developed affiliate relationships with. We had great experiences with them, or we would not promote them! Safe Travels!