Easter weekend is one of the long weekends I look forward to for travel escapades. In the Philippines, this marks the start of summer which is agonizingly hot.
But as I am here in Europe I am spared from this scorcher and instead greeted by the chilly weather of both Belgium and Amsterdam – my holiday destinations.
27 March, Wednesday.
Arrived at 8:52 AM in Brussels from Barajas Airport of Madrid. After about 15 mins my Colombian friends from my MBA class has arrived: Oscar, Maria Andrea (who we call Mariandrew), Maria de los Angeles, Carolina and Margaux (who, like me, is the only non-Colombian in the group, she’s French). They traveled from Pamplona to Barcelona and then to Brussels. Haha this was my inconvenience before when traveling from Pamplona but now that I live in Madrid, the airport is easily accessible. 😉
We’re complete! Let the traveling start!
From Charleroi Airport, where Ryanair flies to, we took a bus going to the city center.
This glass-roofed shopping street is lined with luxury chocolate shops and high-end boutiques along with cafes and restaurants.
Strolling by the city center, food typical to Belgium are everywhere: chocolates, waffles and fries.
The fries are served in a cone-shaped piece of paper drizzled with sauce on the top. What I don’t like though is they charge an additional price for the sauce (mayo or ketchup) for .50€.
We grabbed lunch in Subway as all the other choices are not appetizing enough for us. That, or they’re on the expensive side. Our agenda after eating was to look for the Manneken Pis, a statue of a peeing boy and Brussels’ most famous attraction. While on our search, we wandered farther from the city center by the museum district and into the manicured garden of Brussels Park.
Late into the afternoon we found him!
Now here comes my reaction:
What?! That’s it?! *tone of disbelief
Didn’t expect him to be so small. The boy is so revered and placed at an elevated position inside a protective gate. Here’s a picture of me with my friend Maria on ground level so you can see how high he was placed above the ground.
I’ve read that he is in possession of quite a number of wardrobe too. But that day we paid him a visit, he preferred to be in his birthday suit at an unforgiving temperature of 2°C.
Right in front of him are several stores selling chocolates and waffles. We opted for the latter in chocolate and strawberries. Loved it!
While enjoying our waffles we sat by the steps of the building in front of the statue, a performer strategically stationed herself by the Manneken Pis and soon became the attraction with the Chinese tourists. They even took turns taking photos with her.
After our merienda of waffles, we walked back the Grand Place, or Grote Markt in Dutch. It is the central square in Brussels and is surrounded by the Town Hall, several guildhalls and The Breadhouse (called as such since it was built at a former bread market).
Grand Place is a beautiful square and most especially at night when it is lit up with changing colors.
This one is our favorite color of the Grand Place.
The green ain’t bad either.
28 March, Thursday.
Oscar’s view from the top bunk bed (I occupy the bottom one).
The day’s agenda, which I made clear the previous day is: the Atomomium, another famous Brussels attraction, and Mini-Europe both located at Bruparck outside the city center.
The Atomium is a structure originally created for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. In one of the spheres is a permanent exhibition about the its history while the others show temporary exhibitions.
The Atomium + Mini-Europe combination sells at 23.40€, quite pricey. I wasn’t really keen in seeing a panoramic view of Brussels and was more inclined in seeing Mini-Europe (entrance fee is 14.20€). Me together with Margaux and Maria opted to see only Mini Europe while the other half went up the Atomium. We waited for them by the Mini-Europe’s entrance so we could all explore it together.
I had an individual shot taken by the letter C and after checking the photo realized my native language is there. 🙂
Mini-Europe showcases the iconic landmarks of European cities in miniatures.
Until I haven’t gone to Paris this mini Eiffel Tower would have to suffice. 😉
For Spain they have the Plaza de Toros of Sevilla.
We played a game of toy ships. We were all trying to pass under the narrow bridge. I wasn’t successful in maneuvering under it smoothly hihi.
I enjoyed the Mini-Europe experience. Too bad it is set to close permanently August-end this year. While we were waiting by the entrance for the others, a Slovakian TV crew approached us and interviewed me about my opinion on its closing. I asked the reporter why it is being closed. He said that a huge mall complex will be built on the site. And so to answer his question, I said it’s a shame to be closing it since it’s an added attraction apart from the Atomomium and that doesn’t the city center have enough malls already to be building another one? Anyway it’s beyond my control. I’m glad I was able to see it before it gets demolished.
We went back to the city center for… guess what? More chocolates! We were racing to get back since it was almost 4PM and the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate closes at 4:30. We made it at 4:15 and they were so kind to still let us in.
The chocolatier is a lady who worked for 20 years in Procter & Gamble. When she retired, she decided to be a chocolatier. Well good choice mademoiselle. There’s life after retirement and one can surely devote their time into something that interests them.
After snacking on the free biscuits dipped in chocolate by the museum’s chocolate fountain (I had three), we were back to our maps to check what’s more to see. We were leaving the next day for Bruges so we don’t want to miss out on other things.
We took the metro that leads to Cinquantenaire Park. The park is composed of Exposition Halls, the Museum of Art and History and Arc de Triomphe (Triumphal Arch). I didn’t know that Brussels have one until this visit.
I was with my hood on because at this time it started to snow. It was already Spring but it was bloody cold it started snowing. I guess in Belgium and Amsterdam, Spring isn’t really felt until mid-April.
A few minutes walk from Cinquantenaire Park is the Parlamentarium, the visitors’ center of the European Parliament. Entrance is free but we arrived around dusk and missed out on seeing European Parliament in session, not that it’s a big deal. 😉
It was our last night in Brussels we cannot leave without sampling another famous cuisine: moules frites (mussels and fries).
In the restaurant we went in, we were served 600 grams of mussels. Our meal with drinks included cost 10€. Not bad at all. They serve you a pot of mussels and a plate of fries. Didn’t think those two could make a good combination. I was really satisfied. Loved how I was eating with my fingers no utensils needed. 😉
A lot of people are saying there’s really nothing to see in Brussels. After my own experience I’d have to say that in terms of touristic attractions, it doesn’t have much to offer. In the end though I still enjoyed it, the food made up for it. 🙂