Monday, 2 August
In the morning, we made our way down to the Atomiom. This huge structure, representing an iron crystal but many millions of times bigger, was built for the 1958 world exhibition in Brussels. Today, it is a museum about the exhibition and about immigration into Belgium - kind of an unusual combination.
|View from under the atomium, looking up|
When you go into the atomiom, you go up into the different spheres to see different exhibits. The top sphere offers a great view over the surrounding area and Brussels.
After a couple of hours of looking around, we decided to head into Brussels proper. We took the metro into Bruxelles Centre, and headed for the Grand' Place:
|One side of the Grand' Place|
The Grand' Place is the center of Brussels. The incredibly ornate buildings that line the huge open square were once (or perhaps in some cases, still are?) home to the major guilds of the city. You can tell the guilds with their headquarters on the Grand' Place must have been fairly well-off, given how rich all the façades are! The combined effect of all the magnificent buildings is definitely impressive.
Around the edge of the Grand' Place are plenty of little shops and restaurants geared toward tourists. We spent a few hours wandering around and looking for a public phone (digression: there are plenty of public phones in France and Switzerland. Why, then, do they not exist in Belgium???). Finally we stopped in a restaurant for a very late lunch, where I had a crème d'asperges soup and waterzooï (see the previous entry for my discussion of this dish.)
After lunch, we set out to find the Mannekin Pis, the jaunty fountain of a peeing boy that is a must-see on anyone's visit to Brussels. According to a sign by the Mannekin Pis, he has over 800 outfits; but when we saw him, he was nekkid:
It would have been much more fun if he had been in his kilt, or lederhosen, African warlord garb, or any of the outfits that go with him, but oh well!
Just like you can buy tiny models of the Eiffel tower all over Paris, you could get mini Mannekin Pis models in all the tourist shops in Brussels.
The well-known pâtisserie Dandoy has a shop right near the Mannekin Pis, and I stopped in to buy a packet of Speculoos, the crisp spicy cookies that are their specialty. Afterwards, Celine and I returned home to chez Bonne Maman for a delicious dinner of cailles (quails) served in a rich, smooth tomatoey sauce with small potatoes, which was délicieux. For dessert, Bonne Maman had bought a tarte au sucre, or sugar pie - one of her favorites and a local specialty. The pie had a crust on the bottom only, and it was a little sweet and more bready than a standard French flaky pastry crust. The filling was a pale creamy color, had a soft, light texture, and was very sweet, a little like the caramelized filling around pecans in a pecan pie.
Wednesday, 4 August
On Wednesday, after craquelin (sweet, brioche-like bread with small pieces of sugar baked inside) and pâtisseries, Celine and I headed into Brussels with her aunt Véronique, her cousins Antoine and Elise, and Antoine's girlfriend, Marine. This time, we headed to the Palais Royal and museum district. The Palais Royal has not been the residence of the royal family for at least the last century, if not longer, though some official business is conducted there at times. It is open to the public daily for a short tour of some of the sumptuous rooms.
|Palais Royal, Brussels|
After the Palais Royal, we headed over the the Magritte museum. Magritte was a Belgian surrealist, active from about 1920 until around 1965 when he died. It is a relatively new museum, and the collection is displayed in very dark rooms with lots of little quotes and items to help reconstruct what inspired Magritte. Surrealism isn't my favorite genre, but they did have a large and nice collection of his works which presented an interesting exhibit.
Outside the museum, they have mirrors set up that reflect the sky, whatever else happens to pass by, and a typically Magritte form - a clever display to reflect his oeuvre:
|Mirrors outside Musée Magritte|
Coming soon: Bruges, city of canals and tourists.