Back in September, I was still technically employed by an American company, which means I had Labor Day off! In celebration of our first 3 day weekend in Europe, we decided to go somewhere. After much discussion, we settled on Brussels because it was fairly close (just a 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam), and because Roxy found a good deal on a hotel room there.
My first impressions of Brussels were that it was a nice, if not conflicted, city. It wanted to be old and grand, but it also wanted to be new and modern. I had read that when the EU selected it to be the home of the European Commission, the local government basically tore down huge areas of the city to make space for the office buildings. It’s very evident. Despite being a very old city, Brussels does not feel old. The Grand Place is absolutely beautiful, it’s the main town square and is still mostly old buildings.
We chose a great time to be in Brussels for 2 reasons: 1) The Royal Palace is only open for a few weeks each year, and the weekend we were there was the last weekend it was open. 2) It was also Belgian Beer Weekend! Roxy and I sampled quite a few beers, both at the festival and at some local restaurants. Roxy choose one beer because it was called “Saint Louis,” and it turns out it was a cherry beer. Now, I can’t say I was enthusiastic about trying it, but it was damn tasty! I wouldn’t want to drink more than one bottle, but as a dessert beer it was fantastic.
As part of the Belgian Beer weekend, one morning they had a “Brewers Parade.”
From there we made our way down to the famous statue/fountain of “Mannequin Pis,” the little boy peeing. On the way, we stopped and got Belgian Waffles. I got chocolate (Belgian chocolate, of course) and whipped cream while Roxy got bananas and whipped cream.
While walking around, we stumbled onto the “Place Des Martyrs.” Turns out that it is the grave site for roughly 450 people who fought for Belgian independence.
Finally, we did the touristy “hop on, hop off” city bus tour that took us all around Brussels, including Notre Dame:
The Atomium Monument:
The Arc de Triomphe:
Le Carillon du Mont des Arts:
View from the Mont des Arts (meaning “Hill of the Arts”):
Brussels, to me, seems to have a sort of “Paris lite” feel to it. I’ve never been to Paris, so I can’t say for certain, but the rulers of Brussels kept adding more and more Parisian style buildings to their city. Despite being located in the Dutch (or Flemish) part of the country, the majority of its residents speak French as their main language. With a church called Notre Dame, and a monument called the Arc De Triomphe, it does sort of feel like it wishes it were Paris. Something that I noticed was that there were quite a few homeless in Brussels. I have yet to see a homeless person in Amsterdam. Maybe they’re everywhere here too, I don’t know, but I have not seen any yet, and they were everywhere in Brussels. We even saw one taking a bath in a city fountain. It’s a pretty city for the most part, but I’m glad I live in Amsterdam.