Wingin’ It in Europe: Brussels

29 Sep

traveling_to_europe_5CIt seems kind of weird to say we didn’t plan our most-recent trip. Of course it was planned, as in we knew when and roughly where we were going. We just didn’t map-out every day like we normally would. Which was sort of cool, really.

Let me explain…

For the past few years, we’ve been traveling with our pals Annelies and Yves, who live in Belgium. (I used to work with Annelies.) We’ve been alternating continents. This year, it was our turn to go to Europe. Since Annelies and Yves just bought a new-to-them house with a huge renovation budget, they couldn’t afford to cavort around much. So we decided to hang just out at their house for a while, mostly doing day trips and such. house_from_gardenOne thing we did partly plan in advance was a trip down to Switzerland to visit our mutual friends Tammi and Martin. Tammi used to work with Annelies and me. (There’s a whole ‘nother element to that visit, which I’ll explain later.)

Annelies works from home. On the day we arrived and through Thursday of the following week, Yves would be working at his office. They were kind enough to offer us the use of their car since they were working.

Because I knew we would have driven her crazy if we spent too much time at the house while she was working, Hubby and I took a few days and drove up to the UK. I only laid-out that rough plan a day or so before we left for Belgium. And Annelies booked our ferry passage the night before we left.

Our true goal was to visit with our friends. It’s nice, but hard, hard having friends in far-off places. Travel isn’t cheap, so we only get to see them once a year or so.

Anyway, that was our sort-of plan. Most days, we sort of winged it. And it worked out pretty well.

I already did a post about the Friday that we arrived (September 12). I also wrote about seeing The Atomium and Mini-Europe on Saturday morning (Setember 13). Although I gave you a sneak-peek of Brussels, I didn’t share much. So I’ll pick-up here with our visit into the city of Brussels.

First, you need to remember that we are not city people. We both prefer visiting the quiet, bucolic, scenic countryside over the hustle, bustle, noise, and crowds of cities. But, when Annelies suggested a trip into Brussels, how could we say no? I did want to see Brussels, especially the infamous Mannekin Pis statue. Hubby was curious, too.

Pissing Boy Beer

We’d never even heard of the statue until, when in Texas earlier this year, Hubby and I discovered Blanche de Bruxelles beer, which I dubbed “Pissing Boy Beer.” It’s much easier to say than Blanche de Bruxelles, right? So when I sent a pic to Annelies telling her we’d found another beer we like, she told us it’s a famous statue.

So, being the uber-cultered folks that we are, how could we say no when she asked if we wanted to see Mannekin Pis? I mean, it’s art, right?

After seeing The Atomium and Mini-Europe, Yves drove us into Brussels’ city center.

The statue wasn’t the only reason, of course. We got to see where Yves works. And we also got to see some amazing architecture.

The Grand Place is Brussels’ central market square. Central squares are the norm in European cities. It’s where everything happened back in the day. Cities and towns grow up around squares. Brussels’ Grand Place is even on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

Being a Saturday afternoon, it was crowded. But we muddled through, taking in the architecture, kitschy, touristy stuff, and the people.

It’s hard to choose just a few pics to share here. Hopefully, I’ll do the place justice. And, if you make it to the end of this post, you’ll ever find out how to see more pics. If you’re interested, of course.

First, I’ll share pics highlighting the amazing and diverse architecture.

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Making our way towards the Grand Place.

Remember, cities grew around the central market. The streets are old, and small. Today, many are designated pedestrian zones. It’s only during certain hours that vehicles — mostly for deliveries — can drive on these streets.

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A peek at what’s to come.

 

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The Grand Place

 

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Pretty amazing, eh?

 

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Statues and other architectural details.

 

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Look at all that gold.

 

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I love the gold details. Especially in the evening light.

 

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More gold.

 

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Is that cool or what?

 

I find the detail and grandeur of the architecture spellbinding. I could just roam around looking at the buildings for hours.

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Stunning spire.

 

I especially enjoy the more lighthearted architectural details. It makes me smile.

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Bar Signs

 

How about this interesting bit of preservation? I believe this is a remnant of the old city wall. Look how close the “new” building is! I can only guess the new building was erected before quality preservation became important.

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Could they have built any closer to the ruin?

 

And now for some fun stuff…

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In Search of the Real Mannekin Pis

 

We were anxious to see the real Mannekin Pis statue. Likenesses of the thing are everywhere.

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One of my favorite pics.

 

I couldn’t help but smile at this older lady shopping for postcards seemingly oblivious to the giant pissing boy statue.

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Mannekin Pin showing Belgian pride.

 

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Some of the more tacky souvenirs, which were everywhere.

 

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A more-colorful Mannekin Pis display.

 

Finally, we made our way through the throngs of people surrounding the actual statue.

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The real Mannekin Pis.

 

It’s MUCH small than we had anticipated. The whole thing is maybe about 15 feet (~3 meters) tall. And the boy itself is maybe two feet (~2/3 meter) tall.

Oh well, at least we can say we saw it. LOL.

There was one more must-see for us…

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Smurf!

 

Did you know the Smurfs were created in Belgium? We HAD to visit the big Smurf statue.

And then, what better way to end the day than sitting at an outdoor cafe enjoying Belgiam beer with friends?

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Cheers to Belgium!

 

I love how beer is served in very specific glasses in Europe. Mike chose something we’d never had before. I HAD to order a Lindemans’ Peche (Peach) Lambic. It’s fruity beer, or what Yves refers to as “girly beer.” Lucky for me, it’s easy to get here in the states. But it ain’t cheep.

We lingered over a beer or two as we waited for the city streets to clear a bit.

We were going to look for a restaurant, but it had been a long day and we were all beat. So we just ordered pizzas on the way home.

Pizza in America — the typical kind — is much different than pizza in the rest of the world. Most other places in Europe that we’ve visited favor the thin, brick-oven-type crust.

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My pizza had ham and sausage.

 

And those “sausages,” which looked like hot dogs, were more like slightly spicy Vienna sausages than any sausage I’ve ever had on pizza.

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Annelies’ smoked salmon pizza.

 

And when have you ever know a normal, local pizzeria to offer smoked salmon on pizza?

So, that was our day in Brussels.

I uploaded my pics to Flickr to make viewing them easier. If you are interested, there are two separate albums:

The next post will focus on what we did on our way to Brussels. Backwards, I know. But there’s so much to cover, it probably won’t be the first time I jump around.

8 thoughts on “Wingin’ It in Europe: Brussels

  1. That looks like so much fun. I’d be torn between wanting to try all the food and seeing all the old buildings. I think you did a nice combination of both.

    We had a pizza place in BC that offered smoked oysters on pizza. We tried it once – I don’t recommend it, lol.

    • Brandy, as a rule, I don’t like smoked seafood. Smoked salmon is tolerable at times, but smoked shrimp and crab is not to my taste. Most smoked fish isn’t either. It’s a fun place to explore. If only we’d had a waffle.

  2. Really nice photos (but where are the other 3,470?)

    I like the photos of the architecture as pizza is on my “avoid” list (too many carbs) though the thin crust and minimal toppings does sound a lot better that what is typically consumed around here.

    • Richard, I can’t post all of the pics at one time. Patience.

      This type of pizza (Neopolitan) is much lighter than your typical American pizza.

  3. I really don’t know why you’re not more of a city girl – you can’t find all of that cool architecture out in the middle of a scenic, bucolic field somewhere! 😉

    I love that “look at all that gold” photo. I immediately wanted to click a like or thumbs up button or something.

    Although I am familiar with the mannekin pis statue, I can’t say that I knew it was little. I *do* know the Mona Lisa is miniature…does that count for anything? Lol.

    Thin, brick oven type pizza crust is my favorite (and really the only one I eat; I can’t really stand thick crust). Welp, looks like I have a reason to move to Europe now! 🙂

    • I like looking at cities, and poking around cities. And, obviously, taking pictures in cities. I just don’t like all the people, or the noise. I prefer wide-open spaces, that’s all. Although we do tend to eat really well in cities, and see some amazing stuff. LOL.

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