These photos from Brussels and Amsterdam are long overdue. I didn’t take too many of Amsterdam as I *thought* I lost my camera for a little while. Although, I did find it when i got home.
After finally arriving in Brussels (and after an unplanned night in Paris, and a week in Montpellier), I made my way to La Dixseptieme on Rue de Madelaine. It was a good thing that the cabbie at the train station had a GPS navigation system, as he had no idea how to get anywhere. A far cry from London cabbies, thats for sure.
Rue de Madelaine:
La Dixseptieme was a house built in the 17th century which has been renovated into a hotel. It has been preserved in all its mirrored, gilded glory and was quite an amazing sight. I watched a bit of TV (some weird gangster movie with Christopher Walken, but in French!) in a beautiful old parlor which had hand-painted murals on the walls, while the butler/waiter brought me Duvels. It was heaven! From the outside, the hotel is the brown building with the curved roof.
(More pictures of Brussels, below the fold…………)
Brussels has this great “Hop-on Hop-off” bus tour which takes you to the major sights in the city, and comes back to pick/up and let people off every 30 min or so. I took one of these tours and was really impressed with the history and modernity of the city. Brussels is where the EU is headquartered, and is considered the capital of Europe. It is not hard at all the understand why this beautiful city was chosen.
Close to my hotel was a gorgeous old city square flanked by some of the most impressive and decadent architecture I’ve ever seen. The next three pictures are three of the flanking sides.
And the courthouse, which was being renovated.
The stock exchange……
A memorial to Belgium’s independence from France:
A piece of art nouveau architecture, called the ‘Old English House’:
While I was walking through a sculpture garden, I saw this, which reminded me of a cochlea (ok, I had a moment of nerdyness….)
A strange delicacy in Brussels is the mussels (yes, yes, I know). Of course the chocolate and waffles were amazing, and may have tried every Belgian beer on tap. A definite must-try is anything ‘frambois’ as it is raspberry-flavored beer. Sounds strange, but its delicious! Also, while I learned that Godiva IS Belgian chocolate, it is far, far inferior to less popularized Belgian chocolates. Several chocolatiers let me try a couple kinds of truffles before I decided what I liked, which was a big plus, and I finally bought chocolate mousse truffles. I don’t think they lasted the night.
On the whole, Belgium was a LOT cheaper than France (both hotels and food.) Not sure why this is, but I certainly stayed in a fabulous hotel for the same price as the mediocre one in Paris.
The train ride out of Brussels was interesting, to say the least. You might call it “Europe by Broom Closet.” The trains in Belgium are a little less organized than in France; specifically, while tickets are required, tickets will no be taken if the train is sufficiently crowded to prevent easy movement. The result is that every train is so crowded (and thereby free), that people have to stand in the aisles and in the emergency exits. Yours truly was forced to stand in the emergency exit with about 5 other people and a baby carriage, from Brussels to Amsterdam. I half expected chickens and pigs too. And we’ll just say it smelled *interesting.* But, on the bright side, if I’d had a seat I never would have met a fascinating Belgian girl who chatted me up in the broom closet. While she was getting off at her stop, a woman pushed her from behind, she whipped around and words were exchanged; the man with the ‘pushy woman’ brought up his hand as if to hit the Belgian girl! I was appalled, but nearly bust out laughing when the girl hocked up a big messy spitwad and SPIT right on the man. He was so shocked he just ran away! Take that!!