From Brussels to France

Trip Start Jun 28, 2007
Trip End Oct 01, 2007

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Brussels, Belgium

Before this week, if asked could I accurately put my finger on the map in the exact place where Brussels, Belgium was - I'm sure I would have failed miserably. My geography needs LOTS of work!
Today, I have a new appreciation for a city filled with sidewalk cafes, Gothic cathedrals with gargoyles and heaven-reaching spires, so much beautiful architecture and history it boggles my mind, designer stores to rival the best NYC's 5th Avenue has to offer (Versace, Chanel, Cartier)-- and all within a friendly, medium-paced city with a mass transit system that makes getting around a breeze. Even if French or Dutch isn't your primary language. It's called the Capital of Europe and with it's amazing buildings, cathedrals and arches, it can certainly claim the title of a capital - but it's "comfortability factor" (my term for how easy it is to get around to see everything and the tone of the people we've met) is a high 9 on a scale of 10.
And did I mention the chocolate!?? This is Belgium, after all - the home of exquisite chocolate. On the mornings there was a wonderful chocolate hazelnut paste served with apricot jam for BREAKFAST! Wow! Yes, we did a lot of walking to make up for that one. :-) Cheryl brought her pedometer and so far this week, we've logged over 10 miles walking - a good thing because stores along the street have working CHOCOLATE fountains inside. It's like being in chocolate heaven!
The Grand Place is one of those town squares just stepping into can literally take your breath away. You are surrounded on 4 sides of this huge square by some of the most magnificent Gothic architecture - with stern statues of crusading knights, caricatures of gargoyle faces, and famous people we aren't sure exactly who they are, but they must have been important to be immortalized on a building, right? It was more than my eyes could take in at first - we stood for a long time just gazing upward and the most intelligent thing I could think of to say was "WOW!".

Along one of the busier thoroughfares, is the famous Manneken Pis. He's this adorable statue of a chubby little boy very happily peeing on the streets of Brussels! Legend has it he was sculpted after a child who saved the city by extinguishing an explosive in very much the same manner in which he's posed today. He's such a fixture here that the locals dress him up for all types of social occasions -- he even has a Mickey Mouse costume!
So Brussels at a glance-- the Belgian Beer is strong (GOOD!), the people nice, the chocolate amazing, the sights GRAND. Food has been good, too. Moules Frites (mussels with French fries are a local specialty) and I've had them twice. Cheryl even ate her first mussels last night - she's certainly expanding her culinary horizons! :-)
Today marks the two week mark since we left the states. Temperatures have been in the upper 50's to mid-60's and LOTS of rain-- so quite a change from back home.

Tomorrow morning we get on a train on head to Paris. It's only about an hour and half ride from Brussels, so we should be there before most of you wake up on Friday. :-)
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