Friday, November 12, 2010


Brussels! How fun is that.

We had a very uneventful and short (really, being used to flights to Oz, this was nothing) flight and landed on a Wednesday morning. The weather was mildly Belgian, with showers and clouds, but we managed to stay dry all the way to our B&B (I'd recommend). We had to get the key from the bakery across the street, but once we hashed out the language issue, it worked out really well.

For some reason, Shannon and I both had a lot of trouble with jet lag on this trip. We were still somewhat messed up by the time we were heading home. I've done similar Europe trips in the past, with no issues, but something was different with this one. So, our day was spent dodging showers by having beer and coffee between sights in the center of Brussels.

Unlike the last time I was in Brussels, this time, we did manage to locate the Mannequin Pis. I had been told it was a small statue, but I was still fairly surprised.

Two highly enjoyable stops for me were a random working class bar near our B&B where we had a few with the locals, and the stop at Le Bier Circus, where they have a pretty fantastic beer list. It didn't hurt that it was coincidentally located near our B&B.

After a shockingly early night to bed, we awoke to a much nicer day. But, before we could get out, we had breakfast. It had been an option at this place, but since it was two euro/person/day, we opted in, for even if it was just coffee and toast, it was a cheap start to the day. It turned out to be a fantastic spread. We never finished everything on the table. It was a tremendous value.

In keeping with the beer theme of the trip, we opted to take a self guided, mostly back alley, walking tour from town center to Cantillion brewery. The tour had nothing to do with beer, but had a few really interesting stops and tidbits. And since the weather was sunny, albeit cold, it was quite enjoyable.

The brewery tour itself was interesting. Cantillion is the only brewery still operating in Brussels proper, and all they make are Lambic, Kriek, and Gueuze. It's a self guided tour, which was somewhat peculiar, since it's an operating brewery and all, but it was cool to just get to mill around. You can tell that it's still a pretty small batch operation.

After the tour, while we were enjoying our tastings, we chatted with a Canadian who was on some stupid-long holiday from school. He gave us some good info for Brugge, and a little insight into the language in Brussels. He spoke French as well as English, but said that a lot of times when he would speak French, he would be answered in English. I guess he was trained in more classical French, like Parisian, because he said that the French in Brussels was "shit, just like the Quebecois." While I found this hilarious, I also started to notice a difference, especially when we were in Brugge. You could totally hear who was French and who was Belgian.

Post tour, we needed food, as well as beer, so we hit up the recommended Moeder Lambic. We found an outstanding beer list, good food, and friendly, funny, knowledgeable bar staff. Here is where we had our two top beers of the trip. The complete list will be posted soon.

Since it was still sunny, we thought we'd try to locate the EU complex that afternoon. It turns out, we failed miserably, but we did manage to find our way into Jubelpark, which was lovely.

Looked like a nice place to go for an after work run, as well as being home to the auto museum. We heard good things, but opted to give it a pass, instead taking in more architecture.

Scenes from the market at night.

Shannon at the geographical center of Brussels.

Friday turned into another lovely day, and we were determined to find the EU. This was the one day that we had any defined plans - a booked tour at the Bosteels Brewery in Buggenhout.

We still wanted to see the EU facilities, so we tried again to find them. We had planned to take a tram, but learned after somehow walking all the way there (which wasn't nearly as far as we thought) that the tram in question was actually a bus. We sort of failed at above ground transit. But, we had a lovely walk through lived in neighborhoods, through some parks, and ultimately to the EU.

One thing that did surprise us was the segment from the Berlin wall that was next to one of the EU buildings. This was totally unexpected, and made the trip down even more worthwhile.

From Luxembourg Square, looking back to the EU, where there were two more segments of the wall.

We had just a bit of time before needing to leave town for our tour, and after a quick stop at the Royal Palace when it wasn't raining...

we went out to the Atomium, which was built for the first Worlds Fair after WWII (1958). The recommendation from one of my colleagues was to go to, but not up, which seemed like good advice. It was a pretty cool structure though and worth the tram ride out.

Plus, we got to walk through the lovely Parc de Laeken while eating marvelous frites, all the way over to the actual residence of the king and queen. You really can't see much, and they certainly don't let you get close. We did see this monument though, which I documented poorly, and can't find the name of on the internet.

Next stop, Buggenhout.

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