After almost killing ourselves getting our bags UP four flights of fiendishly steep narrow stairs to reach our Amsterdam apartment we decided to try out the backpack feature that each one has to come back down – worked a charm! Tram in the dark to Centraal and then onto the 9.15 Thalys to Brussels. The trip took just under 2hrs.
Although we didn’t realise it at the time, there is apparently no Vodaphone in Belgium - no bloody wonder I couldn’t get Google-maps to work. We hopped a cab, driven by a very friendly Belgian who picked us as Aussies straight away and then to my utter surprise asked if I was a teacher.
We’re staying at an ‘aparthotel’ not far from the European Parliament building. It’s a business/administrative kind of area so we braved the cold and headed out in search of the ‘touristic’ areas. After 5 days in dead flat Amsterdam, the hilliness of Brussels has come as a bit of a shock to our legs.
As we headed into town, the first major site we passed was the Palais de Bruxelles, a stunning building where King Philippe does his king stuff. Opposite the Palais is the Parc du Bruxelles with its rows of pollarded trees around the edge.
Down past some extraordinary buildings, it was the home of the Musical Instrument Museum that caught my eye – Art Nouveau in style and just gorgeous. Downhill some more past the formal box-edged garden at the Monts des Arts, we would our way to the iconic ‘Mannekin Pis’ – a little statue about 60cm tall of a peeing boy – dressed for the season as Sinterklaus.
By now we were a bit hungry so we stopped for some lunch before heading into the Grand Place. Grand doesn’t come close, they should re-name it as ‘jaw-dropping place’ – the buildings are amazing. City Hall, with its ornate facade fronts onto the Place and looks eye to eye with gold-leaf clad guild-halls and the Museum of Brussels.
Next stop was the nearby Xmas Market which linked the Grand Place with St Catherines.
By now our feet were starting to complain – central Brussels is paved with cobbles and these are not foot-friendly, so we began the up-hill slog back to our apartment. I'm not sure if they have shopping centres like we have at home but there are lots of streets lined with all kinds of shops. We came across a butcher shop - these photos are for Lauren
Back at the apartment, Tony switches on the TV… and the first English language station he finds is showing …. (wait for it)… Masterchef Australia!
Tomorrow they are expecting a massive demonstration around the European Parliament building - estimates are 10,000+ and judging by the number of people we've seen wearing the Pro-Catalan Independence yellow (scarves, flags, ribbons) they're probably about right. The European Prarliament building is less than a km from our apartment building so rather than worry about getting caught in the crowd, we’re going to check out Brugges.