In what is becoming an annual summer rite, we once again set off on vacation over Fourth of July week. The past years have seen us journey to Italy, Quebec City, and Spain. This year we were off to go visit her sister Shelly and her husband Ross in Edinburgh but decided a quick stop in another city would be a nice diversion. We chose Brussels.
The only other time we’d been in Brussels was when we flew in to take a train down to Paris on Easter weekend a couple of years back. We were pretty excited to be in Brussels, especially since the USA made it through to the knock-out round of the World Cup and had drawn Belgium, a match to be played when we were there. Four years ago while in Florence on our honeymoon we watched the US team get eliminated in the same round by Ghana. We were hoping it would be a different story this time around but alas, it wasn’t to be, as we lost again in almost the same way by the same score, 1-2 in added extra time. At least we had better beer this time!
Despite the loss we ate really well in Brussels. Waffles, chocolate, seafood, and of course moules. It’s a very easy city to navigate on foot. The main area around Grand Place is the touristy area but there are other places just outside Grand Place where you can get away from the crowds and find some really good food. We took a nice walk on the day of the game from Grand Place up to Place du Grand Sablon then over to the Royal Palace and Parc. It was there we stumbled upon something we didn’t expect…medieval jousting. That’s right. Apparently there’s an annual celebration in Brussels called Ommegang Pageant which is some sort of medieval folklore festival with a parade and arts and crafts. It’s not unusual to see performers or craftsman wandering around in costume and when we made to the park we saw why. There were some tents set up with craftworks and yes, jousting area. There was also a large event scheduled for the evening in Grand Place which meant there wouldn’t be a big screen tv set up for the World Cup match. A bit disappointing but we found a good enough pub to watch.
It was a good 48 hours filled with Belgian beer, food, World Cup, chocolate, and jousting. On Wednesday we headed to Edinburgh via train for a family visit. Took the Eurostar from Brussels to London (through the Chunnel!) then another train from London to Edinburgh. Pretty cool. I was really surprised how quick it was to get to London that way.
A short distance from Grand Place is Manneken Pis (‘little man peeing’) a famous statue/fountain with a few different stories behind him ranging from a little lord placed in a tree peeing on opposing troops, to a boy peeing on explosives to save the city, to a lost boy found peeing on the corner where the statue is. In addition to the various legends the little statue is dressed in costume a few times during the week and you can even look up a schedule of costumes. On 4th of July they dress him as Uncle Sam. Love it.