The Brussels adventure

This past January my husband and I had the 25th anniversary of our first kiss and to celebrate a quarter of a century together (that sounds sooooo long!) he and I went away, just the two of us, to Brussels for 3 days (2 nights).  We decided to do it the unstressed way: go by train! The journey is only 2.5 hours from where we live and we only had to change trains once. The kids were looked after by friends, so there were no worries there, and we were off last Thursday morning. This is what it looked like just after we boarded the train to Brussels. Coffee for Mr Esther, tea for me, cakes and reading material… Yes, good start to our mini-break!

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We arrived in Brussels and walked to the street our hotel was in (right bang in the historical center!), had a late lunch, checked in to our hotel and then started walking… and walking… and walking… We walked by ‘Manneken Pis’ (yeah, world famous small fountain statue of a little boy peeing)…

… walked some more…

… and popped into a church where I lit a candle for my dad and which also turned out to be Heraldry-heaven for Mr Esther (the man loves medieval history and is a heraldry specialist, a fangirl of sorts, if you will)…

… we walked on and on till we got to the royal palace, which is the Belgian king’s work place…

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… walked from there back into the old town, with a lovely view as we came down…

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… we stopped for drinks then walked on to finally visit a high point: the market square with old city hall and beautiful old buildings surrounding it (click on images to enlarge)…

It’s a gorgeous square, it’s probably the best cared for part of Brussels. Our hotel was situated about a minute minute away from this location. This was our breakfast room view, by the way…

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Our feet were already getting very tried at the end of that first day. We went to the hotel room, freshened up and then went off to dinner and a movie after (Silence – slow moving Martin Scorsese movie about Portugese Jesuit monks in 17th century Japan – 3 people walked out during it, but Mr Esther and I found it totally engrossing).

Friday, the second day, we walked even more… We visited the cathedral (again, click to enlarge)…

… and, as we are Europeans at heart, we walked on to where the European Union administration is situated. The European Commission building is freakishly huge (these pictures don’t even begin to show that)…

… outside that building there is also a piece of the Berlin Wall with a text on the history of that eyesore and how since that was torn down European unity has grown…

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… we walked by the European Parliament buildings…

Outside the parliament building there was a tree decorated in a crocheted work of art. I have no idea what that is about but we found it amusing…

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We walked through more streets closer to the old center where our hotel also was…

… and in less touristy parts of Brussels, we also came across an occasional house painted with interesting illustrations (again, click to enlarge)…

Speaking of cartoon characters, we also came across this sign in a park, asking Pokemon character searchers to keep off the grass as the grass had just been re-planted. Apparently massive amounts of Pokemom game players had trampled the grass before…

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Of course, by the end of the day our feet were just about dead and we sat for quite a while sipping wine (me) and special beer (Mr Esther) in the old market square…

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We moved from there to a restaurant and later back to the square again for more beer. The square was beautifully lit after dark…

Saturday, our last day in Brussels, we spent at the museum, seeing an exhibition on famous Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Alas, his most famous works weren’t there, but he sure made some really wonderful less famous paintings too!

In the same museum we also strolled through the beautiful medieval paintings section…

Alas, we were too tired to go on to the 19th / early 20th century paintings that I had also wanted to see; we skipped that in favour of a café (and more beer and wine) before taking our train and heading back home again.

For me, hardly a trip is complete without fangirling of some sort! And I got to do some on this trip as well! There was no Richard, Colin or latest crush Lucas fangirling but there was the 1920s Magritte painting, that made me think of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries because of the black bob hairstyle (sorry for the fuzzy picture)…

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… and we came across Simon Baker of The Mentalist fame in a Longines watches ad in a jewelry store window ( I stared and smiled at that for a while before moving on, the man and his smile are beautiful)…

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Brussels also likes its comic / scifi / fantasy stores… In a store window, for instance, we saw all sorts of wands from Harry Potter characters for sale…

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… and then in another store, which was filled with so much stuff you could hardly move, I decided to search once again for a Pop Thorin figure. I always regretted not getting Pop Thorin at the time The Hobbit movies came out and now they are sold out everywhere and they’re very expensive online. Well, I didn’t find Thorin but then my husband called me over and I saw these two…

20170305_155620… Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy! Granted, not Colin Firth as Darcy but hey, he can pass for it, right? And a kick ass Elizabeth Bennet, who I did enjoy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So yeah, I didn’t want to regret not getting Elizabeth Bennet! I bought her first, then the next day decided I’d get Mr. Darcy as well. I want no more Pop-regrets…

And the last bit of fangirling had everything to do with Charlotte Bronte! Jane Eyre is still one of my absolute fave books ever, this coming summer we will be travelling to Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire where she lived, and yesterday I walked in her footsteps in Brussels! Charlotte Bronte stayed in Brussels for about a year in her mid twenties, learning French at a ‘pensionnat’, a school for girls, and also teaching English there. She also fell in love with the husband of the pensionnat owner, Monsieur Heger, even though nothing ever came of that. She based two books on her Brussels experiences (‘The Professor’ and ‘Vilette’) and Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester is said to have been modelled after Monsieur Heger. The part of Brussels (between the royal palace and the older city) where she lived isn’t there anymore. Now big buildings stand on the street where the pensionnat used to be, the street itself is also gone. On one building (you really have to figure out where to find it, luckily Mr Esther is good at that stuff) there is a plaque commemorating Charlotte and her sister Emily living there…

… and there are steps there that were also there in Charlotte’s time and that she most certainly must have walked on…

When we were at the museum an hour or so later, we saw this painting…

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It’s  the painting of a school children’s parade in Brussels, all these girls are schoolgirls! It was painted quite a few years after Charlotte and Emily left Brussels but I like to imagine that these girls could have been their pupils… or maybe the teacher walking next to these girls was!

We took the train out of Brussels again yesterday at the end of the afternoon and got off at Antwerp to have dinner there before heading home. While in Antwerp station (beautiful building inside!) we sat drinking coffee and chai tea latte while waiting for our next train. This was our view…

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… and yes, it immediately reminded me of one of my favourite flash mob videos ever, which was also the first one I ever saw, I think. A flash mob The Sound of Music ad was filmed in Antwerp station some years ago and still is awesome to watch…

Yep, we had a really wonderful time! It was over all too soon…

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23 thoughts on “The Brussels adventure

    • Had to look that up. 🙂 Ah, a famous chocolatier! We saw plenty of those and entered several and tasted some. Took no pictures of chocolate, though. Guess I prefer to eat them. 😉

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  1. Happy anniversary — which special beer did your husband get?

    I had a similar experience with “Silence” — people walked out in the middle, but I thought it was an excellent film.

    I’m really amazed at how much you got done on your weekend — you really made the most of every second!

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    • Yes, and we have felt every second in our feet! 😉 My shoes were comfortable but not for walking THAT much, I really need to invest in better walking shoes.

      My husband tried several special Belgian abbey beers. He drank mostly the more light coloured tripel beers and had an occasional darker dubbel beer. He took pictures of one menu where all sorts of beers were specified and their tastes were described so he can try some at home as well (we have some very well stocked stores here with good beers). He and some friends are planning a beer tasting evening and he is stocking up on ideas. 🙂

      Interesting you experienced the same thing with Silence – seems like it’s an acquired taste kinda movie.

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      • I loved the book — would put it on my top 10 of 20th c. not written in English — so I was invested. I had to get used to the tempo, and it was too violent for me; I’m getting less and less able to watch that as I get older, I guess (some critics were saying this film was Scorsese’s opportunity to do his own “Passion of the Christ”). But it was really well done, I thought, assuming that one doesn’t reject the validity of the entire premise of the film (that there was a point to Jesuit mission, or that there is something to be learned from engaging in mission). At least one serious film critic is calling the film “Orientalist,” and I can see why, but on the whole, except for the ending, the film does a good job of addressing the themes that I thought were most poignant in the book.

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      • oh, and if your husband ever wants to share the tap list 🙂 …

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  2. The stained glass windows reminds me of when K and I went through that old beautiful church when we stayed with you. I can barely recall which town. But these are all heraldry! He must have been over the moon. 🙂

    The square is beautiful at night!

    I love the Magritte works. I especially love the one that’s not necessarily the style he’s known for – does M have anything larger for that pic you can email me? I’d love to see it.

    The Medieval paintings… is one of those looks like Bruegel, and another reminds me of the style of Van Eyck. Anywhere close?

    Antwerp Station – gorgeous architecture!

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    • Bravo on the Medieval paintings – you are spot on! 🙂
      The Magritte – do you mean the one with the house in the night but the sky is daytime? I can e-mail you that.

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  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful time in a beautiful city. Lovely pictures.

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  4. I love that you went to the Heger site–what a fascinating bit of Brontë lore! Your photos are gorgeous, especially of the town square.
    I liked “Silence” very much, both book and film. And, that was My Guy as the Voice of Christ…

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  5. Sounds like the perfect weekend and Brussels is such a great place for a weekend break! I can smell the waffles and chocolate in the air and taste the beer with the little cheese cubes dunking them in mustard and celery salt 🙂 Glad you had a lovely celebratory weekend!

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  6. Oh, I meant to mention — the knitting / crocheting things on trees is an artistic fad that’s been going around the US at least the last seven years (that was the first time I noticed it).

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  7. I just read a novel a few months ago about a woman whose husband left her for a yarn artist who put up these installations covertly, a sort of “yarn terrorist”.

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  8. tolle Bilder und tolles Wochenende!!

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  9. Wow. I lived for a year in Brussels, and I can tell you that you did more there in 3 days than most people do in a month! Love your descriptions. I also would like to advise that you visit Ghent next. The town is only 30-40 min by train from the centre of Brussels, and it is just superb – medieval and beautiful!

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