Yes, I thought that would get your attention
Where do you think I am?
Brussels, Belgium, you are correct.
I got here by flying into Amsterdam where I waited 2 days for KLM/Delta to find my luggage. It was not a good start on my 3 planned days in this beautiful, charming, artistic, yummy city which is the home to NATO, the European Commission, capital of the European Union and host to two World Fairs.
And, home of some of the most sought after chocolate and praline delectables . . Godiva, Leonidas and Neuhaus chocolatiers.
The FLIXBUS journey from Amsterdam was uneventful and rainy except for the 3 minutes transiting Antwerp and a quick view of the port.
Ahhhh, Brussels. I anticipated how nice it would be to relax at the Escalle hotel (a hostel, actually) just a few hundred yards from the train station. Alas, it was not to be and I was beginning to wonder if the great travels of the past year were now going to be my trials and tribulation of my future year.
The desk clerk wanted to actually see my reservation printout. This was a new twist. Usually, you showed your passport and whiz bang, you had your room. Something was “afoot” as Sherlock Holmes would say. And, it was. “Someone” had taken my reservation on a date when the hotel was closed for renovations.
The man started quietly making phone calls, ignoring me entirely. So, I sat with my 2 wheeled suitcases and daypack and waited. Although, ultimately this was my problem, I wanted it to be their problem to solve. The longer I sat, the more annoyed I became. Eventually he said they had a sister accommodation just 10 minutes away and I could easily walk there.
No thank you! I did not want to walk, with luggage to an unknown hotel/hostel in a city where streets were unfamiliar, curvy, and went around traffic circles. What about a taxi, after all it was close (he said). No, they could not pay for a taxi.
Oh, there is a woman entering the lobby. A quick conversation, heads together. She is going to the other location, you can walk with her. (Note: a 10 minute walk for a middle-aged man, who knows where he is going, and who is not pulling 2 pieces of luggage is 10 minutes. It is not 10 minutes for me).
It was actually 22 minutes, and I discovered the next day that there was a much shorter route available.
By the time I reached my final destination at the Aviation Hotel/hostel, I was “knackered” as the British would say.
They do deserve a round of applause .. my 5 bed dorm was now upgraded to a private ensuite room with a bit of a view, and I was well received and taken care of for the entire stay.
Now the fun begins. First stop WAFFLES! Even in the drizzle of the day, customers were lined up out into the street. Finding a place to sit was a challenge, but with my stealthy ways, I spied a couple slugging down the last dregs of coffee and I pounced, offering to clear the table for them. It works every time! Sorry this blog does not offer taste-o-rama. You will have to take my word and the hundreds waiting in line who came by bus, car, metro, train, plane and on foot to bite into these waffles.
Use YELP BRUSSELS to find The Waffle Factory, just down the street from Manneken Pis and the architectually stunning, UNESCO designated town square.
Now shall I talk about the fries, beers and chocolate pralines? No .. I don’t have that much space.
But, did you know that Brussels, among all its claims to fame, include the comic strip? Yep! It’s true, and as you walk the little cobbled streets and turn a corner, you may see a huge cartoon mural like these:
If you have ever seen the comic tin tin, or Lucky Luke, Cubitus, or Gaston Marsupilami you can thank an artist in Belgium.
Or other artsy stuff like this ..
Although Brussels, is brimming over with art, food, history, and political “intrigue” it also has the most congested traffic in Europe or north America (info: platform inrix).
All that aside, lots of people come to Brussels to see the Manniken Pis. Yes, it’s a bronze statue of a little boy taking a wizz, created in 1618-19; and there are half a dozen stories that go with the statue; and, the government of Brussels dress this little bronze boy in costumes. Yes, there is actually a contest with specific rules (Versachi watch out), to see what the boy will add to his already overflowing closet of 900 outfits. See link: Manniken
Historically Belgium is catholic, but surveys have found that in Brussels only 10% of practicing catholics attend church. Brussels is an international city in many ways, and as such has a wide variety of belief systems including Muslems, Jews, Eastern Orthodox and Buddhist practitioners. Among these you can also find atheists and agnostics. It is interesting under these conditions that the educational system requires students to choose 2 hours of religious studies each week.
Final note on this: Belgium does NOT collect ethnic statistics.
Next stop Spain, where I will live with a local family for 3 weeks; and my only job will be to speak English with the children.