Thunderstorms and Dutch Boys
Brussels Travel Blog› entry 7 of 29 › view all entries
Brussels began with yet another guided tour. (The best part of the day came that night though) My absolute favorite part of the city is the Grand Place, as the French call it, or the 'de grote Markt.' This famous city marketplace is beautiful by day, and even more amazing at sunset. During the 14th century, this marketplace was the commercial crossroads with humble wooden houses. Soon however, rich patrician families built grand stone mansions, and the square became the social and political center of the city. While the square was bombed in 1965, it was restored as much to its origins as possible, and holds more music and art festivals year round than any other city square in the world, one of the prettiest, in my opinion, being one dedicated to flowers where a "flowercarpet" is made to fill the square and look like a giant, intricate tapestry.
Another really cool thing we saw in Brussels was the Atomium, a monument built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. It's 334 feet tall with nin steel spheres that are connected by poles to make the shape of an iron crystal that's been magnified 165 billion times! Madness! You can go up part of it, but we didn't have time to and just got to get out of the bus to take pictures. On the way to the monument, the guide pointed out a Chinese house that had been uprooted and brought all the way to Brussels, which I thought was also pretty cool. We also got to see the Arc de Triomphe in the Cinquantenaire Park, which was built in 1880, ordered by King Leopold II, to celebrate Belgium's 50th anniversary of independence, and to show off to the world how well it was doing.
Not gonna lie though, one of the highlights of Brussels was eating a Belgian waffle while walking around that night. Yes, I did title this entry thunderstorms and dutch boys, and I'm just getting to the best part of the day. That night we decided to go to yet another Irish Pub, this one with live music. We were all having a great time getting drinks and such when I met two Dutch guys who were on weekend break. They were both in the military, and I hit it off with one of them, named Nicoli. He didn't speak much English, but we had a great time dancing and trying to communicate through hand gestures and broken English. Soon most of my friends wanted to leave. I didn't. Begging me to leave with them, then finally giving up and writing the name of out hotel on my hand in sharpie, they finally let me stay with a stern warning to my new friend to make sure I get home ok or else.
We finally left around 2:30, just as it was starting to pour. If you've read previous posts, you'll understand my affinity for getting turned around in places I'm not familiar with. This happened again. I kept thinking my hotel was two blocks one way or another, not finding it until about and hour later. (The alcohol probably didn't help the matter much lol) Nicoli made the most of it though. Turns out he can understand English better is it's spoken in a British accent, so there I was, soaked to the bone and talking slowly in a terrible accent, kissing on street corners. Sounds like something out of a book, right? We finally made it back, and like a gentleman he opened the lobby door for me. We exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch.
Getting there: Trains run from the airport to Brussel's Nord, Centrale, and Midi stations every 20 minutes from 5:30AM-11:30PM, and fares are usually 2.80 Euros. Gare Centrale is the station located closest to all the main attractions, but beware that there is no train information desk in this station, and you can not make reservations or validate a pass here. Also, Gare du Midi is known for pickpocketers and people being mugged so be careful!
Tourist info: The office is very centrally located in the Brussels International Tourism & Congress office in the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), Grand Place (02/513-89-40) and more info can be found at www.
Getting around: Free maps of the metro, tram, and bus are free from the tourist office, from all stations but the Centrale, and the public transport company STIB. The Metro runs through the city and out to the suberbs, and can be identified by a white letter M on a blue background. Trams are usually faster, as well as more comfortable than the buses. Tickets are only 1.50 Euro for a single ride, or 6.70 Euro for a 5-ride card
Don't miss the Grand Place (world heritage sight) or the Belgian Waffles, and as always...have fun!