on April 28, 2009
The Grand Place is a large square in the heart of Brussels surrounded by architectural masterpieces. When you first walk into the square, it’s all you can do to keep your jaw from dropping to the ground. Actually, I think mine dropped anyway. All you can say is "wow!" until you come around from your dream and realize this is an actual place on earth. Then, you venture into the square, mingling with the other tourists (which is an astoundingly low number, by the way) and snapping away with your camera.The dominating feature of the Grand Place is the magnificent clock tower atop the Town Hall building. Inside, you’ll find a small museum (which we didn’t bother with) and the tourist information desk (where we got ourselves a good, free map and asked to be pointed to the closest bathroom.) But who wants to go inside when you could be outside, staring at the carvings and reliefs on the building. If you can manage to drag your eyes across the square from one amazing building, you’ll find the other. Minus the clock tower, I would say that the grey King’s House tops the Town Hall as the most impressive building on the square. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. Inside is the City Museum, another museum that we skipped in favor of more time walking outside and around the town.The surrounding buildings are now shops and restaurants, but were originally guild buildings, also impressive, but playing a more supportive role to the divas of Town Hall and the King’s House. Thanks to Rick Steves’ guidebook, I remembered to look up at the statues. I’ve mentioned how enamored I am with Brussels and their smart-assey humor, but I love the story that the people came up with in conjunction with the statues. One choir of statues says "Who farted?" A horseman points across the square. The statue he points to says "It wasn’t me!" and points to another corner. There, the statue of Saint Nicholas hangs his head, clearly embarrassed. Classic!Speaking of the guidebook, I can’t say enough about the value of having a good tool to guide you in your walks around the city. You never know what tidbit Mr. Steves is going to hand you, but you can be sure you never would’ve seen/understood it on your own.While on the Grand Place, you’re most definitely going to want to have lunch at one of the cafes, while you soak in the grandeur of the buildings on the square. Then, you’ll want to do your chocolate tour to each of the large shops on the Grand Place. Then, for desert, you’ll want to get your Belgian waffle. Don’t worry, calories don’t count on vacation.
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