08.02.2019 - 08.04.2019 70 °F
Before I get into our Brussels adventure, let me take you on our journey from Scotland to Brussels via a layover in Amsterdam (Schiphol Airport). Our first flight on KLM (yes, I’m mentioning them for a reason - please read on) was 90 minutes of, oh my god, these young Scottish hooligans like to drink their beer (did I mention it was a 9:00am flight and evidently KLM will give you all the drinks you want). I think the Scottish are wonderful people, it would have been nice if theses nincompoops could have used their indoor voices on the plane. Okay, that’s just me being an old fuddy-duddy complaining about kids without manners, but when we landed, I was telling myself our next flight has got to be better. Oops, guess I spoke too soon. While looking for our connecting flight on the departure board, I get a message on my KLM app that my flight has been canceled. Confound it, what to do, what to do? I know, I’ll go ask a KLM rep. After walking a bit, we finally found a rep who looks up our flight on his tablet and says, “no, the flight hasn’t been canceled, go to gate blah blah blah”. Happy the flight wasn’t canceled, we walk about half a mile to our gate just to be told, yes, the flight was canceled. Of course our next question was “why was the flight canceled?” And you guessed it, they used the default answer of weather. (My weather app didn’t show any bad weather but hey, what do I know.) Anyway, he tells us to walk the half mile back to where we had just come from and there will be a KLM rep to tell us what to do. So now we wait in line (of course it’s a long line) until finally a rep comes up to us and says we can use our plane ticket (which was more expensive) for a train ticket - just go get your luggage (at least another half mile) then go to the train station (which luckily is in the airport) and have them reserve you a seat. So we walk, and walk, and walk some more because no one from KLM is there to assist us in navigating this huge expansive monstrosity of an airport. Finally, after walking a total of 2.5 miles at Schiphol, we get our train tickets with only a few hours delay. Yep, a bit of exercise to go along with the headache of traveling. Oh, but wait, I’m not done yet, please read on. The train ride to Brussels Midi was uneventful (hallelujah) and our hotel is close enough to walk (only a little over a mile - don’t judge). As we are walking, within a couple of minutes, some guy (presumably a Good Samaritan) yells at me that something is on the back of my jacket. So as I was trying to figure out what was on my jacket, thinking that yes, once again I got hit with bird droppings, because for whatever reason, I seem to be a target (hint, don’t walk too close to me) . As it turned out, someone had squirted something (the not so good samaritan’s partner in crime) on me and then tried to grab Mitch’s luggage when we were distracted trying to clean off my jacket. Fortunately, it was all for not because Mitch saw the thief reach for his luggage and was able to grab it before the scumbag was successful. Of course the wannabe thief, was denying everything as he was running away from the scene of the attempted crime. So, long story long, all that was lost was my jacket because whatever they squirted on it wouldn’t come out. We feel very fortunate that this journey ended well enough but here are a few take aways to think about:
1. Distraction is the name of the game - don’t let the charlatans win
2. KLM sucks
3. Schiphol Airports gargantuan size is overwhelming
4. Don’t be cheap, take a taxi
5. Thinking back on my first flight, my Scottish friends weren’t so bad after-all.
Now for my Brussels adventure:
It was hard for me at first to put those swindlers aside and enjoy the city of mussels, friets, waffles, chocolate and beer, well, hard but not impossible. The center square is magnificent, the numerous pedestrian walkways are fantastic and the restaurant scene is outstanding, that is once you get past all the bars. Yes, the bar scene is well and alive in Brussels. The buildings are majestic, the subway system is easy to navigate and clean (It was difficult to find ATMs but there are a few in the subways and a lot of food stands only take cash so have currency at the ready). We spent three days here and could have easily spent a couple more to see everything. You will see plenty of homeless/beggars around the many pedestrian streets which is sad but all too common in major cities however, for some reason they were more prominent here. This city is a city of tourist and a lot of money is being spent so watch your wallets and enjoy all the great grandeur that Brussels has to offer.
Grand Place Brussels
A delicately sculpted town square erected over centuries to become the representation of Brussels history.
The Atomium represents a single unit of iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. There are 9 spheres representing atoms which are connected by tubes with escalators and lifts. Each sphere is about the size of a large apartment.
Many great legends bring this little statue to life in the hearts of visitors, and the question is why was this statue erected? One story tells of a tourist father who lost his son in the city and after receiving help from villagers to find the boy, he gifted this statue to them. Another, more daring, tale is one where the boy was a spy during a siege of the city. He literally put out a ploy to bomb the city by urinating on the explosives! Many stories such as this have given the Manneken Pis a firm place in Brussels’ city-life but none would compete with its present-day glory.
The people of Brussels don’t simply look upon the cute statuette and show it to tourists. The Manneken Pis plays a full part in the city’s annual calendar and even has an outfit for every occasion. Peeing boy's wardrobe ranges from Santa suits to national costumes from countries around the world.
To give peeing boy a playmate, another statue was built called Jeanneke Pis in the 80s. This other statue is a little girl fountain, but she is lesser known and hides in an alleyway a short distance away from Mannekin Pis.
In the 18th century Brussels opera was second only to Paris.
A perfectly rectangular-shaped park that stretches from Place des Palais to Rue de la Loi, this is a park designed to catch your attention should you stumble upon it on the way to the Royal Palace. Fountains, statues, basins and a symmetrical pattern of footpaths cut through this park like angular lattice work.
Mont des Arts
National Basilica of the Sacred Heart