Ever since I brought the bargain tickets for Brussels in the Eurostar sale I have had lots of people say why are you going there?
Well why not? Firstly I’ve never been before (well I think I may have been there on a school trip when I was 15 en route to battlefields and Ypres), secondly it was cheap and lastly I wanted to go to a different destination on Eurostar.
I have never travel via Eurostar first thing saturday – I’m a Friday pm gal normally. Well Saturday am is mayhem. I was there 30 minutes before hand as stated on ticket I bearly made the train and my bag was searched.
“Did you pack this bag madam.” “Yes no one else would admit owning those graying saggy pants”
Garde Midi Brussels is no St Pancreas or Garde Du Nord. Its scruffy poorly sign posted and tired looking.
I was staying spitting distance from the station in Ibis Midi. I checked in and hit the big bad city. I brought a ticket and hopped on the tram. Destination was Garde Oest that I worked out this would bring me towards the main action.
I changed from tram to metro and alighted at St Katherine’s and went to look for lunch. I has found myself in the fish area of Brussels and headed to L’Huitiere. I started my trip in style. Off the €20 set menu I had St Katherine mussels, half mussels grilled with tomate sause in a round dish with grated cheese with bread, followed by half a lobster with celeriac cream chips and cooked vegetables rounded off with Beligian chocolate moose wash down with Beer brewed by Monks!
Next I wondered around St Katherines which was under restoration and had no way in. I then stumbled upon an open church to recoup my thoughts and work out what else to do. The church was called Eglise du Beguinage.
After a few minutes of reflection I headed back to the metro and went to the central station stop. I then headed to the Beligan National Cathedral, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. The exterior looks like the love child of Notre Dame in Paris and Wesminister Abbey in London. This were the coronations, state funerals and royal weddings happen.
Less dark than Notre Dame it was still Norman-esq in style. The stained glass windows were stunning. The space was very relaxing and I found myself happy for 45 minutes just mooching around and enjoying the tranquillity.
After leaving the cathedral I tried to work out the way to the center however my eye caught sight of a city tour bus. Feet tired and I had been on the go since 6.30am I was happy to jump on the bus. I love those red buses the commentary is clear and interesting not heavy and a great way to get a feel for the city. There were 2 routes and I took the one that took in the about the European Parliament.
A Cisteneran monastery, parks, the European Parliament building, war memorials, and the main shopping street were just some of the things that I remembered about the tour.
After my tour I alighted by the central station and headed in the direct of the masses and found myself in the Grand Place. This urban square was as pretty as any I’d visited in Italy.
Hungry again I went to the Hard Rock Café and was added to the waiting list for the restaurant. The wait was long cold and cramped but it was worth it for a table and access to Red Bull. I will be honest the one thing the Belgians can’t do is Coffee. I detest tea and I have a caffeine habit and a thyroid problem that makes me tired. Dinner was ok and with caffine on board I went for a wonder before heading back to a hot shower and a very comfy bed.
Check out was simple and I headed to the metro got my ticket and headed to the shopping district. It wasn’t exactly early but still I was shocked to find that most big shops Zara, H&M etc either don’t open or not until mid afternoon on a Sunday. I ended up grabbing breakfast in a Q restaurant and sat and read while I worked out what to do.
I headed back to central metro and went in search of Maneken pis. This little boy statue is one of the most famous land marks of the city. After turning the wrong way several time I found the little darling wearing clothes, black coat and red hat. (we will come back to that later)
Then at as I headed to the Grand Place I found the Chocolate Museum. €4.50 gets you a museum to wonder around with bits to taste along the way and a chocolat demonstration by man who looks a bit like the BFG.
It was lunch time now and I headed to the square and randomly went to a restaurant off the square. The waiter was a grumpy git however the monk brewed beer and mussels and chips were good. I wasn’t rushed and I was able to read for a while.
Next I wanted to find the TinTin shop. I was less interested in Tintin and
more occupied with Snowy. After a bit of frustrating map reading (I am like a dyslexic homing pigeon with a magnet by my compuss) I found it.Then I went back to the main square. I found more caffeine in a can and then headed to the museum Mason Du Roi. Free on Sundays the bottom floor was full of tapestries, pottery, random Grecian statues and regions figures the one I remember is St Sebastian with all his arrows piercing him.
Second floor had some stunning art. Images mostly of Brussels and the Grand Place in celebration or disaster (especially fire) were located in this lovely gallery.
Then there was the top floor dedicated to Maneken pis. Then you enter his wardrobe, the peeing boy has more outfits than me. Mostly national costumes, there were also spacemen, bee keeper, a Beatle sargent pepper outfit, soldier with woolly hat and national costumes including Indian, Inca, and British.
With a few Euros burning a hole in my pocket I hit the few shops left open, chocolate, tapestry pillow with dogs on it, and a designer key ring. I headed back to the garde midi. My phone had died so I sat in haagen dazs charging my phone until time to board the train.
So OK Brussels is not as pretty as Venice or Paris but it has an interesting history, lots of Deco buildings, great food (apart from waffles they were vile) I learnt that I prefer 58% chocolate (technically dark) and was revived to face a long and difficult week. I highly recommend Brussels.