Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The (Exhausting) Weekend of Awesome!

I can hardly believe that it has already been over three weeks since I came home from London! It flew right on by! To be fair, though, I am of the firm belief that that entire first week following my jaunt to England was purely recovering from the kid-free fun.

And then I turned around and went off gallivanting again! LOL Instead of it being a full (extended) weekend trip like London, I simply drove up to Brussels for the day. (It was only about a 2 and a half hour drive...it wouldn't have taken so long if not for the copious amounts of construction! LOL) I was going up to meet and visit with Mikayla, as she is one of the students my BFF had while she was teaching French. Mikayla is finishing up her time as an exchange student to Belgium, and it seemed a little ridiculous for her to be so close and for us to not meet! She brought along her friend that had come from the States to visit her for about 2 weeks...she literally got off the plane and onto the train to get to Brussels! LOL The poor girl was quite jet-lagged!

We didn't really have a plan of what to do or see, so we wandered about in a random way (that caused us to backtrack a few times, lol) and just took it all in. One of the first things we saw upon departing the train station at which they arrived, was this dancing street performer!

A STREET PERFORMER DANCING WITH A MEMBER OF THE CROWD

I'm pretty sure that Misha (being the dance fan that she is) as well as my mother-in-law and childhood best friend (also dance fans), would have enjoyed it greatly...I enjoyed it, and I'm not as much into the dance scene! (I'm generally the bookish, music and crafting type...LOL) We then continued down the road and came out into the Grand-Place!

IN THE GRAND-PLACE

THE TOWN HALL IN GRAND-PLACE
There was a lot of road torn up all over the place (yay for construction...) as well as cleaning/restoration scaffolding everywhere (a commonplace thing for European cities), so we sort of wandered about in a non-organized fashion, and came across this lovely "little" church. 

IN NOTRE-DAME DU BON SECOURS
When Mikayla realized we missed the Mannekin-Pis, we had to double back towards the Grand-Place.

This statue is a) really small, and b) kind of weird. Seriously, Misha's younger son is probably about the size of the actual sculpture of the boy. And the weirdness? Well, it's a statue of a boy peeing. How is that not weird? And the story behind it?...Well, according to Wikipedia, there are a few different ones. The one I heard was the one of an artist (instead of a merchant...I think, anyway...it was 2+ weeks ago...lol) whose young son went missing, and was found on a street corner, peeing. The artist was so grateful to find his son in well-being that he created this statue and fountain as a monument to express his joy and gratitude.

THE MANNEKIN-PIS
Now, as a parent, I totally get the heart racing, gut-wrenching feeling of your child disappearing. It's happened to me in the BX before. (Not even out on city streets like in the story!) It's terrifying. And I totally get the relief in finding your child okay. I completely get that. But to make a statue of your child peeing to show your gratitude?...Yeah. Weird.

After that, we went a little further up that same torn up road back to the monument to Everard 'T Serclaes. Mikayla said that if you rub his hand, you are supposed to get good luck. (Much like rubbing the boob of Juliet in Verona, evidently...) There was a woman nearby that turned upon hearing this and said, "Really? Just luck? I heard it was to help a woman get pregnant..." Needless to say, I didn't take my chances and didn't even approach the monument. LOL

THE EVERARD 'T SERCLAES MONUMENT
At that point, Rachel (Mikayla's friend from the States) was pretty famished (and no wonder!), so we stopped to get ourselves some authentic Belgian waffles! She got strawberry and cream, and I got Nutella!
A DISPLAY OF BELGIAN WAFFLES
MY FIRST AUTHENTIC BELGIAN WAFFLE
It was quite tasty, although, to be honest...I didn't taste a significant amount of difference in this waffle and one I could get from an IHOP in the U.S. LOL Blasphemy, I know...it was a little less spongy, but taste-wise, pretty much the same. At least, from what I can remember. It has been a few years since I've had the American "equivalent" to compare it to, though.

While in the Grand-Place, Mikayla pointed out these "shell markers" that appear all over Brussels, which mark the journey of some person that I don't recall...I'll let you know when I find out...so far Lord Google has failed me...



We then headed toward the Parc de Bruxelles (which used to be the hunting grounds of Dukes way back in the day), where we headed down toward the end and saw this lovely fountain, and then headed onward in the direction of the Palais de la Nation, which is the building Parliament convenes in. However, Brussels has been without an acting government for over a year now. (Don't ask me how that works, because I have no earthly idea...)


THE FOUNTAIN IN THE PARK OF BRUSSELS, 
IN FRONT OF THE PALACE OF THE NATION

Walking away from the government buildings, I began to take notice of the lamp posts...I love the detail on them! (Not that I'm pulled toward things with leaves and vines or anything...lol)

THE DETAIL ON ONE OF THE LAMP POSTS
We wandered around a bit more and saw this church on our way to the museum of fine arts.

L'EGLISE SAINT-JACQUES SUR COUDENBERG
We weren't allowed to take photos in the museum (though there were people we saw there that blatantly disregarded that rule), but after walking around and seeing such famous artwork, I have come to the conclusion that while paintings are lovely, I personally prefer sculptures. I found one sculpture there in particular that I absolutely fell in love with called "Scene du Deluge" (and you can't see it in the photo linked, but there is a snake slithering up the back side of the sculpture). 


By that point, we were all starting to wear down, as we had no actual plan and walked around in circles and seriously lacked organization of nearly any sort (LOL). We got a pleasant little surprise, though, upon entering the next church we came to!

FACADE OF NOTRE-DAME DU SABLON

A WEDDING IN NOTRE-DAME DU SABLON
It was supposed to be closed to tourists while the ceremony was going on (oops!), but they didn't lock the doors at all...maybe for guests that might be late? But it was all so beautiful, so I snapped this one photo (though I felt a bit guilty for it afterwards...). We then crossed the street to the church's "accompanying" garden.

THE FOUNTAIN IN THE SABLON SQUARE
The square is surrounded by 48 statues, each one representing a different medieval guild of Brussels. We sat on a bench for a little bit while pulling out a map and trying to figure out where the heck we were and how to get to where we wanted to go. LOL And wouldn't you know, the wedding was over by the time we left the Square, so we decided to check out the interior a bit more.

SOME OF THE WINDOWS THAT RECOUNT 
THE VIRGIN MARY'S LIFE

DECORATION UNDER THE ORGAN LOFT

After that, we stopped to get some Belgian fries (or "frites," as they're called there), which did taste different to me than the U.S. version. I don't know if it's because of the way they were cooked or what they were cooked in, but dipping it in the Brasil sauce that we got with it...YUM!!!! (I'd have taken a picture of the fries, but we were all pretty hungry by that point that they disappeared pretty fast...lol) We sat on a bench near Notre-Dame de la Chapelle to eat.

L'EGLISE NOTRE-DAME DE LA CHAPELLE
Rachel wanted to get some money from an ATM, but there was a homeless man nearby that was pretty...um, let's say unabashed. He was very forward (not quite aggressive, though), and felt the need to follow the three of us when we hastily walked away. It was a bit creepy.

And upon trying to make our way back to the train station (and my car), we came across an unexpected surprise: the Aneessens Tower!

THE ANEESSENS TOWER
It's a piece of what's left of the first wall that surrounded Brussels, a fortification put in place in the 13th century!!!

After that, we oriented ourselves with the map and made our way back to the train station to get Rachel's luggage, and we piled into my car and headed to the Atomium.

THE ATOMIUM
The Atomium was made for the 1958 World Fair, and is known as Brussels equivalent to the Eiffel Tower. (Personally, I think the Eiffel Tower is prettier, but then, I also tend to be biased that way...LOL) Then I dropped Rachel and Mikayla off and headed home myself. It was a great day!

5 comments:

Monica said...

Brussells looks wonderful! I'd love to visit there someday! Definitely on my wish list! Thanks for sharing your pictures!

Diane Marie Shaw said...

Thanks for the walking and picture tour. It is beautiful.
You take incredible pictures. Did you take a class in photography?
What kind of camera are you using?
I am snapping pictures all the time but none of mine look as nice as yours.

smiley_netta said...

Thanks, Diane. No, I've not taken any classes. I'm actually a bit surprised that you are so impressed, as I don't even edit my photos! LOL My friend, Misha, has a far better camera and is quite practiced at editing them. I can count on one hand the number of photos I've actually edited. Mine are straight out of the camera. LOL I have read a couple of articles with tips online, though. I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18. (Misha has a Nikon D-90, which is a highly coveted and admired camera amongst shutterbugs.)

neus said...

Hi!
The shell in your photografy marks the place where it passes the Way of St. James, also known in spanish as Camino de Santiago.
You can find information on
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_St._James.
There are lots of web pages with information of this.
Kisses from Barcelona!
Neus

smiley_netta said...

Thanks for the info on the shell!