Bruxelles in the evening
Brussels Travel Blog› entry 1 of 17 › view all entries
This blog picks up from the entry on Dinant
I returned to Bruxelles fairly early that evening from Dinant. Being the Francophone that I am, I decided to adopt the French names for each of the cities going forward, so don't be too surprised!
Bruxelles is a big city - it's got lots of Africans, lots of Muslims and lots of languages as well. It was wonderful listening to the sound of French in the background though. A majority of people speak French which worked well for me, and overall people seemed overly eager to help when you spoke in French with them and saved them the trouble of speaking in English! My hostel, it must be said was not only first class but also very close to the city centre - like a nice 10 min walk.
Bruxelles, like any European city is best explored by foot. But what's different about Bruxelles is just how much they're into food. Apparently, this place has more 5 star rated resnts than any other place in Europe, and believably so. When you're not seeing stores that sell frites or kebabs, you have the chocolate stores. Tons of them, some looking like a a haute couture watch shop. And then there's the flagship waffles. The smell of waffles, along with every other dressing or accessory that goes on top of it - could be hazelnut paste, or fresh strawberries and cream.... the whole city, if not country seems to be obsessed by food. Not that I was complaining....
After I reached Bruxelles from Dinant, did a quick checkin to my room and went for a long walk to the city centre square - Grand Place or Grote Markt.
I grabbed myself a touristy waffle complete with powdered sugar, whipped cream, hazelnut syrup, bananas and strawberries (cue the coronary!) and walked down to another cheesy attraction - the Mannekin Pis. It's the statue of a boy pissing, looks terribly tacky but somehow it's a must-take photograph.
There are tons of souvenir stores here as well - very pricey selling everything from lacework, statues and bottle openers of Mannekin Pis (the poor sod's penis all coiled up into length enough to open dem wine bottles), clay replicas of the Grand Place and other knick knacks. The weather was lovely, I spent about 2 hours or so wandering around before I headed back to the hostel, made myself some noodles and went to bed.
Only problem I had with Bruxelles is how bloody difficult it is to find a supermarket! but other than that, it looked fairly comfortable, definitely a walking city, although the cobbled pavements isn't for one with thin shoe soles.
When I told my friends I'm going to Belgium, the first obvious question was "why Belgium"? Well, the ease of a Schengen visa was the only reason, because right from the get-go, my Frommer's research had kind of told me that there's really not a whole lot to do here. Infact, most books even club Belgium iteneraries with Luxembourg and The Netherlands as apparently, there's not much to do in each of them indvidually! Anyway, I had decided I was going, and going I was. I had also decided that I have to stop by London having gone to Europe (talk about excuses), so it worked out cheap for me to book two one way tickets on AA.com. On the day of departure, after having spent not more than 1 hour the weekend before in packing, my colleague dropped me off to the airport to grab my connecting flight to Chicago.
Our AA flight landed about 20 minutes late. The airport looks quite small, and dare I say it, rather dirty as well. The exterior is a right royal mess, the buildings look old and almost reminded me of the Mumbai airport (which isn't necessarily a compliment). Then, there's the Immigration - it seemed so informal. At first glance, they looked like 2 men selling SIM cards for mobiles. LOL - and so close to the gates as well unlike LHR and most US airports. Anyway immigration done and luggage in hand, I bought a ticket to the city centre (you have 3 stations to choose from - the Gare du Nord, Gare du Midi and Gare Central, I chose the first which was closest to my hostel) and boarded the train.
The train ride was rather short (20 mins) and I was in the city centre in no time. Like any European town, this place was bustling with activity. I had a problem finding my way to the hostel not because it was hard, but the city isn't very tourist friendly in terms of directions and all. the hostel looked good - although I just dropped my luggage in the Luggage Room, grabbed my bag and map and went for my first stop of my Belgian tour - the lovely town of Dinant.
All the tourist books say so, but you can't help but notice, marvel and almost grin as you see road signs in 3 languages, or at least two. This is a very unique European city in that its the first time I'm seeing 2 European languages (Flemish/Dutch and French) given equal footing. The other thing that also struck me is just how many kebab shops there are. I was later told that it's a very common European thing.
Read the journal entry on Dinant on the next page, before returning to this page to read about my first evening in Bruxelles.