Monday, November 3, 2008

A Weekend of Chocolate, Beer, and Waffles

The Burg, Brugge

Another Belgian Speciality

Chocolate, Chocolate, and more Chocolate

Add Image The Grand Place, Brussels

This weekend we escaped London and headed to Belgium. Our trip started with an early morning ride on the Eurostar. This was our inagurual ride on the Eurostar and we were quite impressed with the ease and comfort of the train. The only bump in the ride was a minor disagreement with some coffee that caused me to walk around Belgium all weekend with coffee stained coat. While there is some security, the procedures are not nearly as complex and frustrating as the airlines. There are no limits on baggage and all your luggage is stored near your seat. The loading and unloading time is minimal and there are no annoying safety speaches! Reaching speeds of 186 mph, the Eurostar delivered us to Brussels in just over 2 hours. It is amazing to think that we crossed the English Channel on a train.

After a short nap (we did get up at 4:30am!) and a quick lunch, we headed out to explore Brussels. After passing about 50 chocolate shops and just as many waffle stands, we finally found our way to the Grand Place. The Grand Place is the focal point of the city with a large square sourrounded by rows of former guildhouses. As we start to travel more, I become more aware of architecture and am quite impressed with many of the Eropean just don't find buildings like these in the States! These particular guildhouses were built in the Flemish Renaissance style of the late 16th and early 17th centuries (according to our trusty guide book). Needing a break from the cold temperatures (that our excuse and we are sticking to it!) we headed to a bar to sample Begian beer. Jignesh especially enjoyed Fraimbois, a light beer with a slight raspberry flavor. Full of beer and slightly warmer, we meanadered the streets and strolled down the Galeries Royales de Saint-Hubert, a magnificent shopping gallery. The day ended with dinner and an evening out at O'Reilly's, an Irish pub near both La Bourse (the stock exchange) and our hotel. For an Irish bar in a French and Dutch speaking region of Europe, they sure do love their American tunes.

Saturday morning we took a 55 minute train to Brugge. Brugge, a small medievel city with canals and narrow cobblestone streets, is the ultimate tourist destination. And despite the cold, rainy weather, the tourists (us included) were out in droves. Brugge is the ideal city to just wander with no agenda in mind. And that is just what we did! Of course, we covered all the major sigthts including the Burg (Brugge's own charming square), St. Basil's Chapel, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood (an impressive and lavishly styled church). We also endulged in the best waffle (covered with Belgian chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream...see picture above) of the weeked at Sweet Brugge. Because of the weather we skipped the popular canal cruise and opted for the warmth of the local bar instead. (do you see a theme here?). We sat outside under heaters and enjoyed the sound of the rain as well as the company of a local who was babysitting his "grand-dog" while the rest of his family enjoyed the city. Oh, did I mention that we also overdosed on Belgian chocolate?! The day ended with a return train ride to Brussels and dinner at a Greek place near the Grand Place.

Sunday was our final day in Brussels we were surprised to discover a different part of the city that we had not seen on Friday. We first headed to the Manneken Pis. This statue of small boy cheerfully pissing into a pool below is wildly popular with tourists depsite its very small size. On special occassions, the boy is even dressed up in costumes that can be found at one of the local museums. We thought the statue is extremely overrated but joined the crowd and snapped a few pics anyway. We did not, however, purchase one of the many cheesy Manneken Pis bottle openers that can be seen in tourist shops. Next, we passed the art and antique district and finally ended up at the Musees Royaux d'Art et d'Historie (Royal Museum of Fine Art). Although we did not see the whole museum, we did check out the paintings and sculpters in the lobby (I only have the patience for art museums in small doses). We then passed by the Royal Palace (it is not no longer the residence of the royal family and, thus, has become somewhat dilapidated), the Parc de Bruxelles, and Palais de Justice, and the area home to the European Union. Oh, did I mention that we once again overdosed in Belgian chocolates, beer, and maybe a waffle or two! After a light dinner, we headed to the train station to catch the Eurostar back to London. We are now trying to detox from chocolate, waffles, and beer and plan our next adventure.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures. The pissing boy is one of my heroes. I am not ashamed to say that I have a pissing boy bottle opener. Long live manekin piss.