Belgium Stories and Tips

The End of Brussels for Us

Basilica of Sacred Heart Photo, Brussels, Belgium

When we arrived back from Bruges, still tired and our feet aching, we trudged down the hill from Central Station through the narrow streets, looking in some of the shops. We stopped in one so i could buy some souvenir presents for people. Graham decided that since the Mannekin Pis was the most famous symbol of Brussels, he wanted to see it. I did tell him it's a lot smaller than he'll expect but he wanted to see it anyway. We ended up walking a long way around to find it, when it was actually just a couple of blocks from the Grand Place. Oh well! There it is and luckily the crowds around it weren't too thick. Graham took one look and said "Is that it?" Well yes, i did say it wasn't much.

The little statue of the boy peeing is only about 18 inches to 2 feet tall. I don't see what all the fuss is about really. It all seems to be a bit "tee hee naughty statue!". Apparently there's a bar right across from it called the Mannekin Pis and a type of beer called the same thing with a replica of the statue as the beer pump. From what i was told, the beer is pretty awful. No surprise. You see little replicas of the statue all over the place and lined on shelves in the souvenir stores. Apparently he often wears a little uniform or clothing that various groups and countries make and donate and there is a little museum that has all the outfits on display. Again, nothing i'd be bothered with personally.

From there, we tried to find our way back to the hotel. We did get a little turned around but found our church, our landmark and went to the hotel to rest our feet for a bit. That's one thing about the centre of Brussels (and Bruges) .... it's cobblestones everywhere, not just the streets, but the sidewalks too and that's desperately hard on your feet and legs! Later on we went back out to find a restaurant and discovered that most of the ones around Place St. Catherine were either seafood places which didn't suit Graham or very fancy/expensive and we didn't want that. We ended up in a little Chinese place which was unassuming but quite good in the end. (see review for Hong Kong Delight).

In the morning, we went to the Musical Instrument Museum and took a cab there to save our legs and a bit of time. That was really brilliant and not very expensive either, just 5 euro per person. (see review). We spent a happy hour or two in there wandering around listening to all the different kinds of musical instruments from different countries and different cultures, some instruments were very, very old and traditional. Some of the pianos were painted, one of the upright pianos looked like a 1940s radio. There were old fashioned types of bagpipes, i'm not even sure if any of them were the familiar Scottish type but pipes are quite an old instrument that may originate in Egypt. We had a coffee in the rooftop cafe and peeked out at the city wide views from there. In summer when the outdoor terrace is open, it must be spectacular on a sunny day.

From there, we hoped to get in all or most of a city bus tour, the hop on hop off kind. They leave from the front of Central Station so we headed in that direction down the hill through a park in front of the Museum of Arts. One bus was just leaving and the other sitting there had no driver and no idea when one would show up. But another tour company was parked a little way away so we went there. He was leaving shortly so we bought tickets and went up to the top. The weather was cool but a bit sunny. We weren't sure if we'd have time to do the whole tour but we went anyway.

The tour route for the one we chose turned out to be a better one than the other company as this one went through the newer parts of brussels first and out to the outskirts where the Atomium is. That was built for the World's Fair in the late 1950s and looks like a giant molecule. It has some exhibitions and a cafe at the top and the main attractions are the views. It's 9 euro per adult to visit with various discounts and 1/3 off with the Brussels Card.

The tour also went through a more modern part with big new buildings made of glass and steel along wide boulevards lined with more modern shops. We passed through a nice park and also by the Royal Palace. By the time we got to Grand Place, we thought we probably wouldn't have time to do the rest of the tour which may take at least another 45 minutes. We had to get back and get our bags and get to the train station. When you take the Eurostar you have to check in and go through security and not knowing how long that would take, being early was better than rushing.

We got off the bus at Grand Place and walked back to the hotel, got our bags from the locked luggage room (we had checked out this morning) and got a cab to Gare Midi(South) where the Eurostar terminal is. Turns out we were there quite early so we went to a cafe to get some lunch. The first one we went to didn't have much choice but the next one did and we had a really nice baguette sandwich, some cakes and coke and got some snacks for the train.

We checked in, found our seats and settled in for a comfy 2 hour ride into London. Brussels was all too brief, but we had a taste of it. It might be nice to go back again and see more of it. The side trip to Bruges was still a good idea even though it took time away from Brussels because it was a lovely day there. I guess it's better to have a taste at least, and if we want to go back again someday we are at least more familiar with the city and can be more comfortable with it.

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