Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Belgium

While living abroad we had quite a few visitors. My family loved playing tour-guide and introducing guests to our new life overseas. After sufficiently wearing them out with sights in London, we accompanied one group of visitors to Belgium for a few days back in 2004. We took the Eurostar train to Brussels.  That accessibility to the rest of the world is one of the biggest benefits of the expat life is, and the part I miss the most. I wrote this particular post on the Amtrak from New Jersey to Washington D.C. and while the distance is pretty  comparable it’s just not the same.
The first thing we did upon arriving in Brussels was head to the Grand Place.  This is the magnificent main square of Brussels, surrounded by buildings with intricately carved spires, dotted with cafes and street artists. Here we sought out a beer for the parents and frites, with ketchup and mayonnaise of course, for the kids. The mayonnaise was a new thing for us when we moved but don’t knock it till you try it- trust me, it's better than Hellman's.
 
Our next stop was the Royal Palace of Brussels (pictured below- along with me rocking the middle hair part). To get there we had our first experience on the the local transit system- we ended up staying on past our stop to the end of the line and had to wait for the train to turn around. While nothing will make you learn your way around faster, we might as well have been screaming "Tourists! Tourists!"
Speaking of tourists, one of the quirkiest attractions is the Manneken Pis. There are several stories behind the tiny fountain of the boy urinating, none of which really explain why it draws such crowds.  The statue is dressed up in different seasonal outfits throughout the year and it's definitely an iconic site.  The other statue that attracts a lot of attention is of Everard t' Serclaes, a citizen of Brussels who defended the city against the Flemmish.  Apparently rubbing the statue brings good luck and grants wishes. You'll notice that while the rest of the statue is dark with age the body of the martyr stays shiny from all the people touching it. Don't think about the germs for too long, just go with it! 
In between indulging in mussels, more frites, ice cream and that famous Belgian chocolate, we also ventured back onto the local trains for two excursions to nearby Bruges and Antwerp. 

Bruges is probably the most picturesque town in all of Europe.  Ivy covered turrets, restaurants and boats along the canals. I have a thing for river canals and dining outside in colourful market squares but I promise my C post wont include either.
Our next stop was in Antwerp. This city is one of the diamond capitals of the world so of course we took a tour of the Diamantmuseum – pretty much every girl’s dream come true. 

The four days we spent in Belgium were definitely not enough. I feel like this post barely scrapes the top of all there is too see. This trip was such a tease and I would love to go back one day so I could really explore all the nooks and crannies, and pick up more Belgian chocolate. 

9 comments :

  1. Oooh, made me wish I was back there now. Dad's going in June. Just sayin' : )

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  2. Great blog! I loved Belgium too, although I was there many years ago.

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  3. Great blog! I loved visiting Belgium many years ago. Thanks for stopping by my blog, too. jobseekerjourney.wordpress.com

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  4. I knew almost nothing about Belgium before reading your post. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Never been to Belgium, but its on my list of places to go! Nice blog- will be following along all your A-Z posts!

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  6. I've never had Belgium on my radar, but now it just might be! Thanks for your comment yesterday.

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  7. I think you get extra credit since not only the country, but two of the three cities all started with "B"! When we're in Europe this summer on our mother/daughter trip, we'll spend most of a day in Brussels between Amsterdam and Paris - focusing on chocolate and beer! But your post is making me wish I had more than a day to spend there!

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  8. We visited Bruge in 2001. We spent part of a day there and visited 4 chocolate shops and three lace shops. :-)

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  9. I estimate I have been to Beligum no less that 50 times. Mostly work sadly. But that trip was fun. One of our last trips we took while still in the UK was an Arpil visit to Brussels and Brugge. The food and sites are some of the best in Europe. :)

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