In early May 2004, Judy and I spent 8 days in Brussels. Many have questioned, "Why Brussels?" In fact Brussels is probably the best kept tourist secret in western Europe!
When I was still in the Forces, I used to go there yearly in September to NATO HQ where I chaired/participated in annual meetings. Judy could never go with me as she was teaching at that time of the year. I used to tell her about all the wonderful restaurants and places to visit in the vicinity, and looked forward to sharing the same experiences with her after her retirement. So finally we got an excellent travel package and the rest is history, as sampled here, for your pleasure!
While in Brussels, we took day trips to Antwerp, Waterloo, Ghent, Amsterdam, and of course Brugge, a beautiful, medieval Flemish city in pristine condition.
I'm happy to report that things were much as I remembered them since my last trip in 1992, though more expensive (of course). The food (chocolate is a 'food', eh?) as forecast was excellent, and there were so many things to see we were kept busy full time. The following are pictures with my comments covering our exceptional trip back in time (mine!).
To the right is our 4 star hotel, Le Dome, situated within a 10 minute walk from the railway station (Gare du Nord), only a 15 minute walk from The Grand Place and with a shopping mall, specialty shops (including truffles) a block away. A breakfast buffet was included which satisfied both North American and European tastes! In particular, there was the most amazing coffee machine which automatically dispensed all types of coffee, including our favourite, Cappuccino. Unlike other auto machines, it produced excellent coffee - wish we could have brought it home with us. Of course the buffet included eggs, sausages, bacon, cheeses, meats, croissants, etc., etc. - more than enough to fortify one for the heavy demands of tourism!
On the left is the view from our room. One 'feature' of Brussels architecture is the seemingly complete lack of planning! One finds beautiful old cathedrals dwarfed by modern glass and aluminum 'boxes'.
This shot demonstrates this unfortunate melange.
The heart of Brussels and the place to start getting to know the city is the Grand'Place (Grote Markt). This historic market square (at right) with its splendid guild houses and the impressive Gothic beauty of the Town Hall, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe.
I was interested to see Judy's reaction when we entered the square through one of the narrow streets, and I wasn't disappointed - she was truly impressed!
At left is one of the many excellent (albeit pricey) restaurants on the square.
The building I'm standing in front of at right, was the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, it's a museum with relics and exhibits of earlier times.
Brussels is a city of over 2000 restaurants!
In fact, just off the Grand'Place, down a narrow cobblestone lane you find a myriad of restaurants all vying for your attention. It must be seen to be believed - restaurant after restaurant, most having outside tables, and all listing set dinners to suit the most selective appetite. The waiters come out ansd solicit your business as you walk this "food gauntlet".
At left is a view down one of the streets showing how the restaurants crowd the lanes.
At right, Judy enjoys "Moules a l'Escargot" (Mussels prepared in the fashion of Escargot), and a superb glass of Belgian beer. Brussels is also known as "The City of Beer" with literally hundreds of unique and tasty brews. While I didn't sample the beer, I did revisit my favourite dessert, a "Dame Blanche." This is a large bowl of real ice cream served with a pitcher of melted chocolate! Have one of these only if previously cleared by a heart specialist.
Although Brussels is mostly French, while the rest of Belgium is Flemish, there are some excellent Flemish restaurants in the city. At left I'm at the downstairs entrance to the "t'Kelderke"(Little Cellar), which was justifiably highly recommended to us and is located on the Grand'Place.
And of course chocolate!!! At right is a chocolate fountain ... that's right, a fountain of melted chocolate flowing deliciously down three tiers.
Our favourite was from the world famous chocolatier Leonidas - that has shops on just about every corner.
We brought back a treasured quantity which is rapidly disappearing ... no surprise there!!! Visit their Home Page by clicking on their picture or underlined name above and be prepared to drool!
At left is the famous "Manneken Piss" near the Grand Place. The story behind this is that the young boy 'extinguished' the fuse on one of Napoleon's cannons when Brussels was being attacked.
Tourists seemed fascinated with this statue, and schoolchildren always had this site included in their visits, as seen below.
And then of course there were Gophers ... well actually they are spelled Gaufres. To find out what they are, and see more pictures from Brussels, just click here for Page 2.