Monday, 13 August 2012

Twelve hours in Brussels

The day started like any other. Up at the crack of dawn to meet my travel buddy, Mikayla, at the train station at 5:50am. Only one hour and twenty minutes later, we were in a different country all together.

As we got off the train we could only think of one thing… Belgian waffles for breakfast. Ravenous, we went on a hunt for a place that looked like it would have some. It seemed the only places open had people still partying from the night before, so unless we wanted a beer at 8:30am, we were out of luck. Finally, closer to the centre of the city we found a little café serving breakfast and some of the best waffles I’ve ever tasted. After the best waffle I have ever had, we made a game plan for the day.

As any typical political science geek, at the top of my must-see list was the EU Parliament, so we decided to make this our first stop. The grounds around parliament were surprisingly deserted. I would have thought with everything going on financially with the EU, it would be bustling with energy. But it wasn't. Is this their problem? Have the politicians thrown in the towel on the EU? Or are they hiding inside the buildings refusing to come out of the building pulling their hair out? It is August, maybe they're all on holiday!

Leaving the quiet EU Parliament behind, we took off for ‘mini Europe’ which we had read was the most visited tourist attraction in Brussels. When arriving we saw it was more of a theme park for kids than anything else. Standing at the entrance at least a head or two above everyone else there - yes, even I was - we decided we would be better to go somewhere else. Lunch seemed like a good idea, so off we went to Le Greenwich for some Belgian beer and a few traditional dishes. Everyone who goes to Brussels must eat there. 

There is a fountain in Brussels called Manneken Pis. It was made in 1619 by a Belgian sculptor and depicts a naked boy urinating into a fountain. Now, you, like Mikayla and I, may wonder the significance of this sculpture so I looked it up and here it is…

The most famous legend is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, there was a battle between the troops of Berthouts and Duke Godfrey’s own in Ransbeke. The duke was two years old at the time and his troops placed him in a basket and hung him from a tree to encourage the soldiers. Duke Godfrey, being a young child, ended up urinating on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle. How about that, a two year old won a battle for his troops by peeing on the opposition!

Mikayla and I just HAD to see this fountain, so off we went expecting to see a massive fountain with a little boy peeing. It was actually quite small since the sculpture itself stands only 61cm tall. Either way, it was pretty cool to see. There is a replica in many other cities around Belgium, but the one is Brussles is the most famous.

Shopping was next on our list, so we spent the rest of the afternoon looking at lace stores, souvenirs and popping into chocolate shops sampling flavours. Friday was also the start of a big music festival in Brussels, so we stopped to listen to bands along the way.

The streets finally busy with people, Mikayla and I decided it was time to find some dinner, so off we went to Aux Arms de Bruxelles for the best muscles I’ve ever tasted! Also you must eat here! 

Lugging all our shopping in hand, we stumbled back onto the train to Paris, exhausted from our day in Brussels. 

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