Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Last Views of Brussels.

Grand Place.

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  fter a few hours of fun at the Atomium and Mini-Europe, Z and I made it back to the Central train station and from there, we walked back to the old city.  I wanted one last view of this place - tomorrow morning, we leave for Bruges.

Unfortunately, it was also back to being in a sea of tourists.



Brussels Stock Exchange.

We window shopped as we strolled along the cobblestone streets.  I was taking in all the sights - especially the wonderful architecture of the buildings here.  As I get older, I'm afraid it's getting increasingly harder for me to remember things.  I have to work at committing things to memory so sometimes it takes looking at sometime more than once to get it to sink in.  Sucks getting old.

It's all about the sweet treats here!

Of course, one thing that I will never forget is the sweet smell of pastries baking in an oven.  It was that reminder that led  me to this place.  What I saw in the window was what really drew me in - it looked brioche with chocolate chips.  I knew I had to have one but before we bought one, we checked out the other sweet things the store was selling.  Z was also captivated watching the very skilled and experienced pastry chefs whipping up a batch of giant meringues and the stroepwafels which appeared to be sandwiching a caramel colored filing of some sort.


When I couldn't stand the wait any longer, I headed inside and bought one of the smaller brioche loaves.   Seriously, looking at it - it was a thing of beauty.  Two bites in and we both decided we needed (yes, we needed) a second one - it was that good!


We made our way to Grand Place.


We took in one last view of the magnificent buildings in the square.  Today, the sun was shining and the place looks so much prettier than when we were here yesterday when it was overcast.



Before we left the old city, we also made our way to a small grocery store where I bought some chocolate to bring home as gifts for friends and family.  We also stopped at a Leonidas chocolate store where I bought a 250 gram box of pralines for Z and I to enjoy as I want him to begin to appreciate fine Belgian chocolate.  Truly, you can't come to Belgium and not have chocolate.  C'est tout simplement impossible!  I also bought a nice box of mixed chocolates for my parents - my Dad absolutely loves chocolates and I think he would enjoy a variety of types.  Thankfully, Z has plenty of room in his suitcase to carry the chocolates home in case I run out of space.  After all, we have 10 days of travel ahead of us and who knows what else I will buy. :-)

As I had expected, Z took the long route home to our apartment.  My feet were tired and would have rather taken the short route but my eyes were wanting to see more of the city.  My eyes won the battle so my feet followed in Z's footsteps.  Even off the tourist beaten path, Brussels is a pretty city.  That's not often the case with cities.


As we strolled along, me several body lengths behind Z, I kept my eye out on places to eat. I don't know if it was because of the hour of the day but many establishments were closed. We did pause to read a few menus and poor Z is still reeling, in disbelief, from sticker shock.   For us relatively poor Americans, it's not cheap to eat out in Brussels.


It was very late in the afternoon when we passed by Chapel Church ( Église de la Chapelle in French), a Roman Catholic church situated in the Marolles neighborhood.  The church was founded in 1134 by Godfrey I of Leuven near what were then the town ramparts.  The present structure dates from the 13th century.

Église de la Chapelle

Nearby the church was an elevator, of all things, that took us up one street level. There were steps nearby but Z opted for the elevator and my poor ole tired feet were not about to complain.   When we reached the top, we were standing in front of The Law Courts of Brussels (aka Brussels Palace of Justice).  We passed by this building on our walk to Grand Place yesterday.  I recognized it by the gold striped dome topped with a gold crown.  The building was constructed between between 1866 and 1883  by architect Joseph Poelaert.


I read somewhere that the scaffolding has been there for years....perhaps due to some really extensive renovation work?

A view of Église de la Chapelle and way off in the distance, the Atomium and to the right, the unmistakable spire of Town Hall.

Poelaert is also the name of the small square that fronts the courthouse.  In the Place Poelaert stands the
Belgian National Infantry Memorial which honors the memory of the Belgian soldiers who fought in World Wars I and II.



On the opposite street stands The Anglo-Belgian War Memorial, which was commissioned by the British Imperial War Graves Commission and designed by the British sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885–1934). The memorial commemorates the support given by the Belgian People to British prisoners of war during World War I.

We continued along the main road that we knew would eventually lead us home.  I had spotted several streets, lined with eateries.  By now, I knew Z was famished and sticker shock or not, we both had to eat.

We passed a street flanked on both sides with restaurants and I decided to make a turn.  We were on Rue Jourdan.  We began restaurant shopping, checking out one menu after another.  We had both decided we needed to stick to traditional Belgian cuisine.  Even if the Italian food here is excellent, we were skipping it.


I knew Z was not about to pick a place and I think he got tired of reading menus, many of which were in French which he can't read.  So, it was up to me to make the executive decision on which place we would dine at.  I just had to find a place that would offer items that I thought I and Z, the meat lover, would enjoy.  Good thing about Z is that he doesn't complain so no matter what place I pick, he's actually fine with it.

I settled on a place that looked like the Belgian version of a French bistro.  It was filled with patrons, both inside and out, which was a good sign.


I don't think there is such a thing as a Belgian restaurant that does not serve mussels.  This place was no exception.  At this incredibly high prices, I opted to forgo the mussels.


In the end, Z ordered lamb chops which he enjoyed and I had the carbonnades flamandes aka Belgian beef stew which came with the obligatory side of fries.  The stew was so-so.  I couldn't finish it all so Z had my leftovers.  He pronounced it worse than his mother's because it was missing the carrots and potatoes.  Mind you, she's not known for her cooking skills so that tells you how tasty it was.  Admittedly, the beef here is very lean which makes the meat tough when you stew it.   For me, it was just too big a plate of food.  I have to say that the portions are very generous here!


When we got back to the apartment, it was time to break into our stash of chocolates.  Notice that Z still has his jacket on!  The box of Leonidas pralines was ours.  When I bought them, I told the sales girl to just pick out a selection of the dark chocolate pralines.  She then just put them into the box and of course, that meant we had no clue what flavors any of them were so we just picked and tasted.  All it takes is one bite to know just how smooth the chocolate is.  The Belgians are the undisputed masters of chocolate....okay, maybe they share the stage with the Swiss.  But no one else can compare!


Earlier this afternoon, I had gotten a message from our Airbnb hostess in Paris - it was not good news for us.


Because of the cancellation, Airbnb gave me credit worth $10 a night as an incentive to book another place.  So, I some time looking at alternative places to stay in Paris.  I've submitted a few requests and I hope that I'll be able to find a place even with the short notice.  With the Airbnb stuff out of the way, I spent the rest of the night relaxing, repacking my suitcase to fit in all the chocolates I had bought and planning for our travel tomorrow.   We're off to Bruges!

It's been a short but enjoyable visit to Brussels.  After coming here in 2006, I never thought I would be back.   This time, I took my time to take in the views and for certain, I have many, many more photos to preserve my memories!

Goodnight from Brussels!