The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is also the capital of Europe and the seat of NATO. I visited the city briefly in 1998, but this was Ray’s first trip here. The Tourist Information center is located in the Grand Place which made parking anywhere in the vicinity a nightmare. We finally accomplished it and got a room at the Holiday Inn nearby. Since we were already at the center of activities, we decided to have “mussels in Brussels” and a Belgian waffle. A huge pot of mussels with tomatoes and onions was more than enough for the two of us and cost a huge six dollars. I got a Belgian waffle prepared in a cast iron waffle maker which was heated by its own fire–sort of a pot-belied stove with a waffle iron on top. It was delicious, and I chose chocolate sauce and whipped cream as my toppings. Luscious!
Since our bellies were now full, we ambled around the Grand Place, which is the city’s grandiose main square. The town hall and museums on the square have magnificent facades, but the main attraction is the activity in the square. Hoards of tourists, flower vendors and a band were all intermingled when we were there. The city’s famous Manneken-Pis, the statute of the little boy urinating, was a must-see for us and every other tourist in town. He wasn’t wearing any of this clever outfits, but we took photos with him “au-naturel.”
We attended Saturday evening Mass at the nearby Cathedrale des Sts. Michel-et-Gudule, a Gothic cathedral begun in 1226 that took 300 years to complete and which was renovated in 1983. This striking cathedral is on high ground which makes it even more imposing.
Sunday morning was an ugly rainy day, so we opted to take a bus tour of the city, which was informative and dry. Monday was a nice sunny day, so we revisited places seen on Sunday’s tour and took photos in the sunshine. We captured the huge Palace of Justice with its eternal flame; the place du Petit-Sablon with its garden surrounded by a wrought-iron railing topped with 48 statutes of medieval guilds men; the Japanese and Chinese pavilions near the Atomium. And, of course, we took the required photos of the symbol of Brussels, the Atomium. The 335 foot Atomium was built for the 1958 Brussels world’s fair and represents an iron crystal molecule magnified 165 billion times. Scientific exhibits and a restaurant with a panorama of the city are connected by escalators within the atom’s bowels. A fascinating structure.