Brussels and Ghent


 

market

Happy New Year!  Hello!  How are you?  What are you doing, what have you done?  Are you ready to embrace another 365 days around the sun?  I hope whatever path your life takes in 2016 it is one filled with good health and happiness.  I just read that the rare transit of Mercury in May of 2016 means a year of good fortune and peace for everyone.  Whether you believe in Astrology or not, I think it’s a good thought and hope it is true.

We never know where our path in life will lead.  I never imagined that my path would bring me to a life in England and be married to an Englishman.  We can plan and have goals all we want, but sometimes fate or chance takes over and a new path we never imagined will open up to us.  Sometimes our lives can change in an instant.  Being in Brussels as the attacks in Paris took place in November, made this even more real for me.  Of course our first and enduring thoughts were and continue to be with the victims and the families of Paris and the shock to everyone.  Had we not paid for the hotel reservations in Brussels, when we missed our first train, I was going to suggest we go to Paris instead.  Thinking among other things, good thing we didn’t go to Paris, the next morning we heard that they were looking for the suspects in an area we had been just a stones throw from the day before in Brussels.  Sunday morning I was going to walk to the French Embassy before we left to pay my respects, but it was cold and very windy out, and when I got to the first corner and the police were stopping traffic, I thought, No.  Not sure if I had enough time and considered the options and chose to go back to the hotel.  We took the metro to the Eurostar station and had a safe journey back to England, but when we got home and heard everything had been shut down in Brussels, well you think all kinds of thoughts.  Brussels is a very interesting city and we met some wonderful people there.  It saddens me to know that now Brussels in in the news for all the wrong reasons and that last night the New Years Eve celebration was cancelled.  Thankfully nothing has happened and I hope beyond hope that nothing tragic does happen there.

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As I said Brussels is a very interesting city, with the old and historic to the modern with a diverse area of neighbourhoods.  It is major centre for international politics including the offices of NATO and the European Union Headquarters among others and hosts a number of international conferences.  It is becoming one of the largest international convention centres in the world. We did a lot of walking in the center of old Brussels and took the hop on hop off bus for a broader overview.  I will just share a few pictures from the centre of the city for this post.

Day or night, whatever the weather the Grand Place in Brussels main square is a sight to hold your wonder and imagination.  One of the most beautiful squares in the world, Grote Markt, a UNESCO World Heritage sight is a must see when visiting Brussels.  Every two years in August a flower carpet is set up in the square which must be an amazing site.  The former guildhalls with their gold and intricate detailing now hold restaurants and shops around the square.

grand square

The Hotel de Ville or Brussels City Hall towers above all other buildings and can be seen for miles around.

tower

Any chocolate lover would be happy here with chocolate shops such as this one on the corner of the Grand Place selling and making the world famous Belgian chocolates.  Taste testing confirms they are indeed delicious.

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The narrow streets leading out from the main square are lined with a variety of shops selling specialties like Belgium lace.  And the waffles! You can get a plain waffle for one or two Euros and it is deliciously sweet without any toppings, but as you can see all versions are available.

lace and waffles

One of our favourite stopping off points was the cafe/brasserie of A la Mort Subite which has original decor from the 1920’s when it first opened and is still run by the same family.  A trip to Belgium for many includes beer tasting as they are known for their variety of brews.  From what I understand Belgium has standards for brewing, but also has more variations allowed within those standards to permit more individuality and taste.  The one below on the right is a kriek, or cherry flavour.  Which again taste testing confirms a thumbs up from me.  I just noticed it says kriek on the window of the restaurant below, so it must be a popular choice.

cafe

It looks quiet in this photo but in the evening this restaurant was packed.  I guess others love it as much as we did.  The waiters seemed gruff at first but eventually they were very entertaining and we had some nice laughs with them.  They do not write anything down, but take all the orders from memory.

A al mort

When you book a Eurostar ticket you have the option to add an any station in Belgium within 24 hours of arrival or departure of your original ticket.  We took advantage of this and took the train to Ghent on Saturday.  Ghent was lovely,even though it was rainy and was pouring down by the time we left.  I would love to go back and see it in better weather sometime.

arch

Many wonderful old buildings with detailed architecture.

Ghent

The beautiful buildings lining the canals and a boat ride would be a great way to tour the city.  Although not too many takers on this wet day.

canal

In Brussels I sat on a bench waiting for the hop on hop off bus to come by.  When I got up this was written where I had been sitting.  HOPE.  I know hope alone won’t change things, but I do hope for the best for Brussels and everyone in 2016.

hope

 

 

Categories: Belgium, EuropeTags: , , , ,

14 comments

  1. as a chocolate lover, i have to go to brussels.
    thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. The chocolate truffles are to die for!

  3. You are so right we never know what is round the corner. So glad you are safe and that you did get to see this beautiful city.

  4. I’m so glad you were able to leave Brussels and make it to England safely. What a beautiful city! Thanks for sharing & be careful traveling!

  5. Happy New Year to you 🙂 Lovely photos they remind me of my visit to Leuven last year. On one of the days we visited Brussels and plan to go back sometime, although maybe not this year.

  6. jezz,i can’t believe you could not send some chocolate to your brother in iowa.

  7. Another beautiful post, Jane! I’m going to forward this to Nicole. She is considering doing a semester abroad in Brussels during her junior year.

    • How exciting for Nicole to do a semester abroad. If she does I hope you will visit and I can visit you both and/or she is welcome (and you) to visit us here!

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