Saturday, June 4, 2011

Europe 2011

Hotel de Ville 

The Manneken Pis

June 2-4 - Shell Beach to Brussels (via Amsterdam’s Shiphol)

We had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to commence our latest journey to Europe. Woody, our visiting cat, knew something was up. He sat at a different spot on the couch and peered at us from around the armrest. Apparently, he deemed our movements, suspicious. After locking up the house and packing the car, we drove to Santa Barbara and caught the 7 o’clock airport shuttle to LAX. The trip had begun.

The KLM flight to Schiphol and then the connecting flight to Brussels were uneventful. From the airport we took the train to downtown Brussels and arrived at the Downtown BXL B&B on Rue du Marche au Charbon at 3 p.m. local time. We put our suitcases in the room and the first thing we did was to go out to have a Belgian beer at a local pub. 

Our hotel room - long and narrow
In the evening, we walked to the Grand Place to scout out a restaurant we had read about. ’T Kelderke restaurant was right in the square with a great view of all what was happening around in the square. Diane had a spinach lasagna and I had a tasty beef stew. A dry white wine went well with the dinner. 

The following day, after a splendid breakfast at our B&B, we headed off to the Marche aux Puces. Known as one of the better flea markets in Europe, we were very curious. On the way over, we found a street (Rue Blae) full of great antique stores. 

The flea market was exceptional - an entire city block chock full of vintage clothes, china, silverware, rugs, paintings, African art, door locks, keys, wedding dresses, hats and lots more. After spending quite a while checking out the many fascinating items, we sat down at one of the bars at the edges of the market. We ordered one of the Belgian beers on tap while listened to a jazz trio playing such songs as “Route 66”, “Sentimental Journey” and an assortment of other easy-listening songs. 
One of the antique stores

Grande Place

Dinner at ’T Kelderke restaurant

Why not tango at the plaza?

The rest of the day was spent sightseeing several cathedrals, parks, the Royal Palace and strolling along past the dozens of cozy sidewalk restaurants and drinking establishments around the city. 

Among the things Belgium is best known for - chocolates, waffles, it houses the European headquarters for the EU, the Atomium, the Grand Place, big beers and the Manneken Pis, we managed to do only the latter three. It turned out that the Manneken Pis sculpture was just a short walk from our hotel. It’s a very small bronze sculpture (perhaps a foot in height) of a little boy peeing in to a fountain basin. It was made in the early 1600’s and is accompanied by numerous legends. It even has a counter part to it on the other side of town - Jeanneke Pis, a statue of a little girl urinating. 

The Flea Market

Our impressions of Brussels was a favorable one - we found it to be a very walkable city with interesting things to explore for the weekend. 

The Cathedral

Stained glass inside the cathedral

Belgium waffles