Well it really is a good job I kept a diary on holiday. It's taken far too long to get back to this and finish the travellers' tales. We took the Eurostar train to Brussels on a Tuesday afternoon and almost didn't notice the Channel Tunnel. After a few days using tube trains in London it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. Much better if they'd had windows up to the see and, of course, lighting! Very nice train though.
When you get out at Gare du Midi almost the first things you see are a statue of a character from a Bande Dessinee (BD) and a mural of Tintin. This is a city that takes its comics seriously. For more than fifty years a billboard of Tintin and his dog Snowy have looked over the skyline at the citizens and tourists. They're the best known of a much bigger tradition of comics, graphic novels and other forms of sequential art storytelling. More of this in the next post
We took a taxi to the hotel which we booked over the internet for an obvious but stupid reason! We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was comfortable and welcoming though slightly odd - just like I hope its namesake is perceived! It was in a square called Agora Place - the first of a few Greek references scattered around the old town. Once we'd unpacked and settled down we went out to explore the old city centre, get our bearings, get some food and plan our visit.
The heart of the old town is a large square with the most ornate and decorated buildings I've ever seen. I guess I'm too used to classical Georgian Edinburgh facades so this was a little overwhelming. The picture at the top of this post is the medieval Town Hall at night and all four sides are just as over the top. We found a bar with outdoor seating - Le Chaloupe d'Or (Golden Boot) - not in a photo I'm afraid but very like this one below . You can see more ornamentation on the buildings here.
I bought some lace in the shop on the right side of the picture. Not sure it was made in Belgium - the guidebooks tell you that most is made in China these days, not unlike every tourist centre in the world probably! However it is very pretty and will appear in some of my work later on.
I'm now a convert to Belgian beers. Before our visit I thought it would all be fizzy lager like Stella Artois or fruit flavoured lagers. However there are "brun" beers too, nice and malty and richly flavoured. On the first night I had a bottle of Chimay Brun and later in the week we tried other draft beers whose names I didn't write down, some flavoured with lemon or raspberry. The fruit makes it feel more like drinking wine which is just as well since the beers are pretty strong sometimes.
There's a great little micro-brewery just off the Grand Place called Brouwers du Brasseurs that creates this stuff on the premises. We went back for more - as you might imagine.
Well I've run out of time to write this morning so Antwerp Zoo, the Royal Glasshouses and the BD museum will all have to wait till the next post - hopefully next week sometime. There are loads more photos of Brussels on my Flickr page under Mike and Madeleine on Tour
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