Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welcome to Brussels

At first glance, Brussels is a gray city as demonstrated by their above pictured fashion district section (Chanel and Versace - blah). Mornings are gray, buildings are gray, restaurant napkins are gray. Then you begin to notice colors in unexpected places.
Brussels - city of statue caused graffiti. Eventually, the clouds go away, the sun comes out and you notice Brussels skyline. Old and new, small and massive mixed together.
There are three things that come to mind when I think of Belgium. Beer, chocolate, and waffles. There's more to Brussels than those three things and their famed pissing cherub fountain. He often sports different costumes. Here he is sporting Order of Hermes attire along with his crazy adherents.
As you head toward the city centre, don't hurry too quickly toward the Grand Palace. Take time to enjoy the art gallery district. Fine chocolatiers like Pierre Marcolini with his famed Pastel collection reside here.
There are also casual and upscale restaurants in the gallery district serving fine food. Look out for Tour D'y Voir's metalwork sculpture. They have an amazing lunch special.
Even these restaurants will have displayed art. You can dine inside to enjoy hushed conversation or outside to people watch. You may even discover Tintin related artifacts lurking about. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé were a series of books I enjoyed reading as a kid and as an adult. Read the books before visiting or watch the upcoming movie.
Let's talk waffles. These waffles are thick, tasty, warm, and can be enjoyed untainted by tourist toppings. A true sign of a tourist is one who drowns their waffle in chocolate, chantilly (whipped cream), or ice cream. Enjoy it plain or perhaps with some fruit. Keep it simple.
Beer is quite plentiful and handled beautifully. Reidel has nothing on the glassware designed for specific beers. Since beer enjoys an elevated status, it is enjoyed throughout the day at many restaurants. I suggest widely sampling if you have the time. If not, Delirium is an establishment with a vast beer selection. Located near the Grand Palace, they boast portions open during the day (beer and vodka) and other areas open starting at 8pm (absinthes and gins). Get there early to enjoy beer's leisurely pace. Get there later if you want to party.

Brussels also has many areas for parkour enthusiasts. This area has walls of varying heights, rails, and a sculpture that doubles as a trampoline. It's perfect for training wall runs, cat leaps, precisions, rail balancing, flips and more.
This same area is great for skateboarders too.
Discover their parks too while you're here. They're vast and beautiful. Trees weave designs with human help, people play frisbee and cricket, and there are walking/running paths.
Oh, and don't be afraid to be sport neckwear. Your clothes and accessories should be versatile due to Brussels varied weather.
Overall, Brussels is a lovely city. Their inhabitants are quite friendly alternating greeting you with "Bonjour" and "How may I help you." The food is varied, fresh, and affordable. Look for small bakeries serving sandwiches and perhaps kombucha (at Ekki) if you need something quick and cheap. Be willing to walk through narrow streets, though be wary of the area west of the city centre.

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