“No reason to stay is a good reason to go!”
For this adventure, we booked it back in March because I REFUSED to miss this year’s Brussels Flower Carpet that takes place on even numbered years. I promised myself I would go this year and I kept my word. We booked everything early enough we still got very good prices on our hotels. The flower carpet for 2014 celebrated 50 years of Turkish immigration to Brussels, and the carpet is always displayed in the main city square called the Grand Place in Brussels. It takes 750,000 Begonias to design the flower carpet. It is only for 4 days and is put together in one night.
You can go up inside the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) for a great view overlooking the entire carpet. We got up early Friday morning so that we could walk around and check out the carpet before a bunch of tourists flocked to see it. Luckily, we saw that there was a line already forming in front of the Hotel de Ville, so we jumped in line and had to wait a half an hour until it opened. Thank god we did because otherwise we would have waited an hour. And it is a mad rush to get you in, pay 5euros and cram yourself on to the balcony and try to get some good pictures. The carpet is so beautifully constructed with bright colored flowers, you just cant stop staring at it!
The Grand Place is really one of the most magnificent squares in Europe I have seen. The buildings are so ornate and take you back to the 17th Century. This square is popular for outdoor markets that dated back to the 11th century. The most impressive building here is the Hotel de Ville which was built in 1405-1455 but was destroyed in 1695 by the French and rebuilt in the style you see today. The second most impressing building stands directly across from the Hotel de Ville, which is the Maison du Roi which was once the residence of Spanish monarchs.
It was so beautiful to walk around the square and get a good look at the Flower Carpet from every angle!
After getting a great view of the flowers from the Hotel de Ville, we went on the man hunt for some BELGIAN WAFFLES. And we found them just across the main square at a small café. We had our first (many more to follow) Belgian waffle and I drank a delicious ORANGE hot chocolate! These I MUST learn how to make!! We enjoyed our delicious breakfast sitting outside with a view of the Grand Place. By the time we were done looking at the carpet and eating our sugary breakfast, the crowds had rolled in and we were already off to the next thing.
We walk everywhere when we go on our sightseeing holidays. This trip was nooo different. We walked all over Brussels. We hit up the Cathedrale Sts-Michel-et-Gudule and walked in on a sermon being preached in French.
Then we went on the hunt for all of the peeing statues. Before we got to the Grand Place, we immediately found the Manneken-Pis which was around the corner from our crap hotel. Now, I have NO IDEA why these peeing statues are so popular, but they are. The most famous and iconic image of Brussels is of a young boy peeing into a fountain, which has been there since 1619. Supposedly, this statue came about because in the midst of a battle, the son of a duke was peeing against a tree. For some odd reason, this became a symbol of military courage. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but ok. My neighbor had also visited Brussels a few months prior to us and discovered that there is also a peeing girl and a peeing dog. So, low and behold, we went on the search for all 3. The peeing girl is at the end of an alley surrounded by bars and the story with this girl was that it was created for gender equality in 1987. There is a legend which goes along with Jeanneke-Pis, which goes like this: If you and your lover throw a coin in her fountain, you will stay faithful to one another. So, Hans and I did. Then we went to find the peeing dog, Zinneke-Pis. Now, this peeing statue is not attached to a fountain like the other two. Instead, this is a statue of a dog lifting his leg and doing his business on a street corner. I was the most excited about finding this one, mostly because as we all know, I’m a huge dog lover and no home is complete without a dog.
Then we trekked all over Brussels to find the former Royal Palace which was not nearly as exciting of a palace as other ones I’ve seen. The current Royal Family of Belgium does not live in this palace anymore. They moved to Domaine de Laeken, which is on the outskirts of Brussels.
Then we found the European Parliament buildings. Now, the European Union is divided into 3 homes. One in Strasbourg, France, the second in Luxembourg and the third in Brussels with the committee meetings. Further up from there, we walked up the Parc du Cinquantenaire, which was built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Belgian independence and was built in 1880.
After finding all of these beautiful things, we desperately needed to sit. And before it poured down rain any minute. So we walked back to the Rue des Bouchers, which is an alley strung with bars and restaurants that take you back to the 17th century. Walking down the alley, you can definitely tell that some of Belgian’s cuisine consists of mussels brought to you in a big bucket. We plopped down at a restaurant and took our time eating, waiting for the rain storm to pass, which we were lucky to avoid. Every meal in Belgium always comes with a side of delicious BEGLIAN FRITES (French Fries). No, FRENCH FRIES are not French! They originate in Belgium, although there is serious debate over who popularized it. Which technically, Americans did by pre-making, freezing and distributing the “French” style of fries which was the long and skinny fry, which McDonald’s popularized.
After a deliciously relaxed lunch, the rain had passed and we moved on. We hopped in the car to get to two things that were a bit further. The first and most important was to see where AUDREY HEPBURN had been born. She was born in a district of Brussels called Ixelles to a British father and a mother who was a Dutch Baroness. Audrey Hepburn has been my childhood idol since 7th or 8th grade. And this is truly the one and only thing Hans and I have in common. (Update: Hans would like me to inform my readers that she was NOT his idol in 7th or 8th grade too) 🙂 Otherwise, we are just complete opposites who are attracted to each other!
Next up for the benefit of my boyfriend: The Atomium, which was built in 1958 for the World Fair during a the new age of science. It represents an elementary iron crystal which is magnified 165 billion times. You can go up inside of it and enjoy some great views of Brussels and eat at a restaurant at the very top. None of which we did because we parked, waited for the rain to stop hammering on the car before we dashed out into the middle of the grassy lawn, snapped a few pictures and hopped back in the car.
Then we made our way back to town and found dinner. Our goal on all of our trips is to eat as traditional and authentic local food as we can. So we went to a restaurant and had some pretty damn good food. Hans finally ordered a huge bucket of mussels (No thank you!) and not until he was almost finished did our waiter tell Hans how to eat his mussels like real Belgians do. He showed Hans that he had to use the shells to pick out meat from inside another shell, which was a funny explanation on the waiter’s account and when I realized what he was doing, I translated the boy language of the waiter into English words for Hans!
Be sure to check out other posts related to Belgium!
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