Friday, I ran from my internship to the metro station, and subsequently to the stop for the aerobus. The aerobus, as its name implies, took me to the airport where I boarded a plane for the most terrifying plane ride ever. But we landed safely, and I was ready to leave the trip behind and start my weekend in Brussels. I started by going to my hostel, which was more of a guesthouse, and had, most importantly, a dog. At the hostel I met up with some other people visiting for the weekend, and we all went out together. This weekend was very food-oriented, and this was my first chance to start trying the Belgian specialties – for the night, that was beer. We hung out for a few hours, and then went back to the hostel for a halfway decent night’s sleep.
I walked to the Grand Place and stood in the center of the square for a bit. This plaza is one of the most interesting I have seen. It is surrounded on all four sides by incredible architecture.
The first building I checked out was the Town Hall. You can only go into the courtyard without having booked a tour, but that was okay. the courtyard was quite beautiful and had matching statues on either side.
Next I went across the plaza to Maison du Roi, which housed the City Museum. Museums are difficult when you don’t speak French or Flemish. But this one did have one fantastic exhibit that I did not need language for: The outfits of Manneken-Pis. They are so fantastically adorable. There were different ones for different countries. The one for the USA was a cowboy. Among the collection, there was also a clown outfit, a doctor, an astronaut, and a mountain climber, just to name a few.
After the museum, I walked to Les Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, a kind of enclosed shopping space, as if a mall were converted into an above ground tunnel, filled with chocolate shops and antique stores. After the Galleries, I walked to the main cathedral, Cathedrale des Saints Michel et Gudule. It was at the top of a hill, and the view from there of the Town Hall spire was very cool. The cathedral was nice, but I don’t think it measures up to most of the other main cathedrals that I have seen.
I left the cathedral and walked back to the Grand Place for another Belgian specialty: chocolate. I went into one of the chocolate stores and bought a paper cone filled with milk and dark chocolate covered strawberries. They were fantastic. After the strawberries I went into the Brewery museum. The museum wasn’t much, just a comparison of old brewing techniques to modern ones. But admission came with a beer, and the special that day was something strawberry or raspberry. It was pretty good.
The next stop was the Chocolate Museum. I liked this museum – it had free samples. After the two museums I wandered around the city for a bit. I made it to Place Sainte Catherine. I had read that this plaza had nice bars and restaurants, so I went into one to try another Belgian beer. I tried something called Blanche de Bruges, a white beer from Bruges. If I can’t be “In Bruges,” I may as well try their beer. (See what I did there? One post, two movie references.) From Place Sainte Catherine, I walked to Place Saint Gery. There was a photography exhibit in the main building on the plaza. Again, I don’t speak French or Flemish, so understanding the content of the exhibit was difficult, but the photos were cool. From this plaza, I walked back toward the Grand Place. On my way I got a hot chocolate. The drink had been calling to me all day from the windows of every chocolate shop. What could be more perfect on a cold day in Brussels? Hot chocolate in hand, I walked through the Grand Plaza back to the Palais de Justice. There is a glass elevator that takes you up from the lower streets to the plaza with the palace. I took the elevator and took in the spectacular view of Brussels at night. After all that, I went back to my hostel. I pet the dog, and went to sleep.
In the morning, I made my way for the Jewish Museum. I walked by it the night before, but it was closed, so I made it my second stop on Sunday. First I went to the Place du Grand Sablon, a beautiful plaza with an even more beautiful church. I couldn’t go inside the church, as it was Sunday, and therefore closed to visitors. So I admired it from the outside, took my photos, and continued to the museum.
The museum was very interesting, although again, it would have been better if I knew French. But the curator was very nice and put one of the films in English for me. After the museum, I had originally planned to go to the Coudenberg Palace, but I felt pressed for time and skipped that agenda item. If there are things I didn’t see this time around, it just means I have to go back someday. The next stop then was the Atomium. The Atomium is a structure remaining from the 1958 World’s Fair in the form of a unit cell of iron. It is a little bit outside of the center city, so I hopped on the metro and made my way out there. It was cold and a little rainy, so naturally, it was good weather for another waffle. The Atomium was pretty cool. You go inside and an elevator takes you to the top sphere for a panoramic view of the city. After that, you go back down to the base to take a series of escalators and stairs to the other spheres, where there was an exhibit on innovation.
After the Atomium, I took the metro back to a station near the Grand Place. I had read about a restaurant with a famous beer by the same name, La Mort Subite, (which translates to Sudden Death). I ate lunch, and of course tried the house beer. It was interesting. It was one of those lambic beers, which means it is fermented using wild fermentation techniques, and has quite a defined, albeit indescribable, flavor. After my lunch, I went back to my hostel to pack up, and of course pet the dog. I left for the airport, got on the plane, and landed back in Barcelona late that night.