What's not to love about a country that opens a music festival with fireworks?
That last post was a little uninspired, to say the least. I’ll try to do a better job on this next city. Brussels, Belgium — not Belgium, Brussels, as some Belgian students said some Americans say — is one of those cities where the weight of history greets you around every corner, with each carefully tended stone.
One of the buildings in Grand Place
Here, ancient kingdoms meet modern bureaucracy with the occasional clash of ideals.
The European Union
Botanic gardens are swallowed by exhaust-producing thoroughfares, and still, little corners of solitude manage to survive the modern age.
These used to be much bigger, but now there's a road running through half of the former garden space.
It’s an excellent place for the food-obsessed to visit, if only for the chocolate and beer. I mostly drank Leffe when I was there — it was a short trip — but it was delicious as always. And they had a dark version! After Cologne, a bit of color was refreshing. And chocolate. Oh, you have never seen such chocolate. Shops with individual candies laid out like precious jewels, decked in velvet and oh-so-posh you feel like you can’t touch anything. It’s all just for show.
Pierre Marcolini - My favorite
Until you get over your shock and realize that these shops smell like heaven, and buy a piece or two. My favorite was Pierre Marcolini — we bought a “basic” bar (there are about 8 to choose from). It was exotic — sweet and heady, with an almost floral aroma. And it was just chocolate! As for the cuisine in general, even the bars presented their meals beautifully, and you could sense the French influence in the details that went into each dish. And of course, I had the best waffle covered in chocolate sauce I have ever had there, in a ridiculously touristy region, from a place advertising “Australian ice cream”. I bought it because it was funny, but ate it because it was worth every bite. That night, beer in hand, we watched fireworks and listened to Europop and Handel outside the main palace with the rest of the city, just outside the ticketholder gates.
Before we left, we went to the Museum of Art and Ancient History in Jubilee Park, out beyond the EU. We couldn’t read any of the descriptions, but spent hours trying to interpret the French based on inference and clever guessing games … The place was filled with ancient altar pieces depicting gruesome murders of saints, intricate tapestries with stories for the illiterate (like us), and ancient carriages for transporting the royals, where James chose to propose. So (not to state the obvious or anything) it was a pretty good trip.