Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brussels, Belgium, Take TWO... UPDATED

It always seems like a good idea to head into Brussels, Belgium the couple of times we've visited Holland.  It's only a 2 hour drive from Amsterdam to Brussels and then a 3 hour drive home. So it's kind of out of the way but still feels like it's a place you should visit while out that way.

Something I was told by a friend who lived here was that most of the historical Brussels is only located around the main square.  After the war, most of the surrounding areas over time have been knocked down and rebuilt.  So, the part you want to mostly tour is the main Grand Square (Grote Markt).  However, there are a lot of things to see outside of the main square, like the palace, the Atomium, Mini-Europe, etc.  I'll touch more on that later.

Last time we came here, we visited the same Grand Square, so some of these pictures might be the same.  We parked on a different side of town so instead of the sidestreets being after our tour of the Grand Square, we happened upon the Manneken Pis first.  If you haven't heard of the Manneken Pis before, it's so ridiculously famous.  There are legends of what this statue is of (which I talked about in my post previously... child putting out the town fire from years past, and another one something about the king or something had lost his child and if he was found he would dedicate a monument to whatever the child was doing when hew as found), but this guy is almost like a monument of Brussels. It's pretty ridiculous but you kind of get caught up in the funniness of it.  He is dressed up differently throughout the year.  We've seen him dressed up as dracula and online I saw him dressed up as Elvis.  This year he must have just been a rapper I think

The crowds flock to him. It's pretty crazy.

Nearby there are tons of chocolate shops, waffle stands, jewelers, and lace shops, not surprisingly as Belgium is known for chocolate, waffles, diamonds and lace (and they have amazing fries there too).  All these things you need to experience, because they ARE f'amazing. Well, the diamonds I'm not sure how you could experience, except going into the jewelry shops, and the lace you can buy as a souvenir.  But the other stuff is AMAZING!  I've heard there are some chocolate factories you can go tour and see how the chocolate is made, which is something I may do on our next trip there.
Across the way they were selling Escargots.  The girls just wanted to take a look but I think we were all a little grossed out.

This guy has been here a long time.  We've seen him two other times.  You see him as you walk down the main street to get to/from the Grand Square.  Don't be fooled by him. He's supposed to be Van Gogh and while he's entertaining to watch to see how he stays still for so long, he'll bully you into giving money to him.  (Yes, one is a statue, one is him).  I'm not sure how Brittany caught a picture of him without coming after her.

A must for Brussels.  They are different than any other waffle I've tasted. It's like they coat them in a light sugar crystalline.

Walking up and down the small cobblestone streets is really fun. They're pretty small and you can buy waffles and fries and chocolate just about anywhere.  There is some beautiful architecture too.  Right up the street from Manneken Pis is the Greek part of town with restaurants, etc.  I felt pretty bullied there too.  Meaning they are sharks and come out to you and try to get you to go in, but not nicely like Venice. They also try to get you to buy things, but also not nicely.  It was crowded but it looked and sounded from the language, that unless you are Greek, you don't belong there.  Just a word of advice.

See? Ridiculous how the Manneken Pis is used for so many of their souvenirs and representations of the city.  And yes, he is peeing chocolate. This is a chocolate fountain. Care to have this "chocolate fountain" at your wedding?

I know this is a random door, but I loved this shot Brittany got. I've been really into doors ever since our first theme for Polite Society Magazine was Doors.  

Here is the Grand Square.  In the summer, I think every other year, they create a carpet of flowers. I've only seen pictures online but I've heard it's pretty breathtaking.  I won't say much about these pictures.  I just posted the ones I thought represented well what the square looks like.  Basically, all these buildings are surrounding a big rectangular open area "square."

Lots of streets break off from the main square, just like the one the Manneken Pis is on.

The next few pictures I had Brittany take because this was the building (I think it's a church) I sat under with Spencer in my Ergo carrier while he slept. He is obviously really big at this point but the only way I could get him to sleep.  He was too heavy to walk around a lot so I just sat while everyone walked.  Because we had already been there, I didn't need to see it again. The view I had from these steps was amazing and I LOOOVE to people watch.  A lot of the smaller details caught my eye too and I remember reading about these different details like the seven animals wrapped around each other represented what they believed to be the seven steps of life, stuff like that.

I read a lot about the meaning of this pillar.  The perspective is looking straight upwards.  The ceiling is actually the red brick and this is a pillar that descended about halfway and had all this detail on it.  I can't remember the meaning though, sorry. It was pretty interesting. I shoulda taken a picture where I read about it.

Parts of my view

Great shot, Brittany.

Okay, this guy was random. He came with some older, yet disturbing darker man dressed pretty similarly to this guy.  I know they had to be putting on their own show, not sure why. They didn't ask for money, and they couldn't have been serious. But this guy was jumping on and off walls, making speeches, etc.  A lot of people didn't know what to think at first but I was totally enjoying the "Crazy" show.

Part of the old wall

This is a church right in the middle of this sort of "roundabout" that you drive on to get out of town.  You have to literally jump out of the car or park far away to get any pictures.  We missed great pictures of it last time so Brittany was more than willing to jump out and grab some pictures.

Not sure what this is, but it's cool, nonetheless.

I "think" (Brittany correct me if I'm wrong) this is a church we also saw along the way when we were getting lunch. Brittany had to run a few blocks to get close enough but I'm glad she did. These pictures were pretty rad.

Thank you. Thank you very much.  THAT'S what I'm talking about.  I think everywhere needs this.  (This is where we stayed. It was a really nice Holiday Inn. Seriously, glass elevators? Need I say more?)
Okay so now we get to the outskirts of town. I know I posted about the Atomium before but it's well worth posting about again.  You can see this from the freeway and it's amazingly huge.  You can go inside and tour but we have always decided not to.  (Mine is because of my fear of heights but we had other plans this trip around too.).  If you'll remember, too, this has been here for Expo '58, Brussel's World Fair.

I wish I could remember what this building is. It's not the head EU office (European Union) but it is some kind of government building because it has the Belgium flag (similar to the German but the colors are in a different order).

Going to Mini Europe was something the girls had wanted to do last time.  Next to the Atomium there is this "Center" (I don't know what else to call it). It has a huge movie theater, a water park and a huge area in the middle with restaurants, fast food, walk up and order food and a fun playground. It's fun and quaint and a great time. Part of that "Center" is something called Mini Europe.  

It's basically funded (from what I gather) by the EU.  They've made every country in the EU into miniature form.  It was pretty fascinating. Everything was scaled to 1/25 (except for Mount Vesuvius and Eiffel Tower which were obviously way too big if it was at 1/25 so there's was 1/100) and the detail was dumbfounding. Each model took many years and a few million dollars.  The ticket prices are a little excessive, but for the work that went into this, I can undersatnd why (and for some of you who want to spend more time at the Center, you can buy bundle tickets to the water park, and Atomium).  

The girls took quite a few pictures so I tried to really weed it down.  

Xanthe... gosh I think this is actually Brussels, but I'm not sure.  The Brussels Main Square has the "carpet" I talked about.

Xoe & Xanthe in front of London's Big Ben and Parliament Building

I know this is kind of a hard picture to see but it was a pretty good overall one.  You can see the Eiffel tower compared to the people walking around.  I also wanted to show how they had vehicles that moved along a track and trains and a barge.

Another overall picture. You can't grasp the size until you see the point of reference of the people to the upper left.

BP Oil Rig.  There were a few differing opinions of whether or not this should have been represented but I can understand why it was there. It brings in the EU good money and we all benefit from it so until we stop using gas and oil, then we can't complain, right? :)



Brussels, Belgium... Those flowers are the carpet of flowers in the middle of the square.

Sacre Coeur in Paris

Can you see the waterslides behind it?  That was the other part of this place.

I love the details on these.  There were even people laying out by the pool and swimming.  So amazing.  Made me want to go to some of these places.

The Atomium in the background is not a miniature. This is the real thing and you can see the people inside the Mini Europe to see the scale size.  The Atomium is pretty close and part of the skyview.

Gotta have the windmills.



Xoe, I think this was either Dover or Bath.

Showing the "Chunnel", the underwater tunnel from Paris to London.

Eiffel Tower at 1/100 its size.

Paris' Arc de Triomphe (even with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in its center).

Featuring their airports

A great "overall" picture (although the entire place wasn't this small. It took a good while to go through the whole thing.  There is no way I'm even representing all the countries, with their 2-5 monuments each.

Spencer's favorite part... the trains

Pisa Square

Berlin- This picture is of The Berlin Wall coming down.  The bulldozer was even moving and knocking pieces down.  



And of course the token picture they always take at the beginning which you buy at the end (we never do but this picture was the only group picture we got.)

1 comment:

Alicia said...

Wow. You have some great shots here. I especially love the bike one. Love it.