Monday, May 25, 2015


Monday was a nice day in Brussels, although it was another pokey one for us.

We lounged around until about 11, then walked just a few blocks to visit St. Michael's Church.  Our timing wasn't the best as there was a service.  We didn't walk around or take any pictures, but we did make a brief visit to the crypt area, which dates to the 1200's, and was excavated in 1998.

We walked back over to the pretty main square (The Grand Place), hoping there were fewer people than yesterday.  We were in luck--still lots of visitors but nothing like yesterday!

This square is one of the prettiest we've ever seen, there are beautiful buildings on every side.

This gorgeous building is the city hall, and there's also a tourist information office right in front.  It's open to visit Wednesday afternoons--we'll be there!

Several of these buildings are guild halls dating to the late 1600's.

One entire side of the square is undergoing restoration, but they have put up a safety barrier/wall with photos of the buildings--pretty nice to at least have some idea of what they look like.

This building is "Maison du Roi" or Kings house, although no king has ever lived there.  It was originally built in the early 1500's by a local duke as a symbol of his power.   It was rebuilt in the 1890's and now serves as the city of Brussels museum:

There are hundreds of chocolate shops--oh my!  I'm not even a chocolate fan, and I really like Belgian chocolate--seriously good stuff.

We wanted to visit a certain pub, one that is owned by one of our favorite Belgian brewers, Delirium.  We found it without too much backtracking, and actually it wasn't too crowded.  It's a huge pub, with lots of different levels and bars, and we found a nice little table for two.  David bellied up to the bar and came back with a couple of delicious brews.

We met a nice young couple from London, Sitar & Samantha.  They were delightful, and we really enjoyed visiting with them--for almost 2 hours.  They're kind of "beer freaks" like we are, so it was fun comparing tasting notes.  They assured us the "beer scene" has improved greatly in London since our visit in 2008--we just might have to plan a return visit!

Sitar & Samantha from London:

After our fun visit with Sitar and Samantha, it was 3 pm and definitely time for lunch.  Since it was so late we decided we'd have a nice lunch and skip dinner.  On our list of "must visits" in Brussels was the original "Leon de Bruxelles" restaurant, which opened in Brussels in 1864.  Leon's is our favorite restaurant in Paris for mussels, and always our "first night in Paris" dinner choice.

It was very near the Delirium Bar and we found it easily and settled in to a nice sidewalk table for a delicious meal of "MUSSELS IN BRUSSELS" (we've been wanting to say that for the longest time!)

We confess to being a little hesitant after our not so good mussels in Bruges, but Leon's mussels were wonderful, as usual.  We enjoyed every bite!

Even though it had been a short day, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and rest my knee, as it was getting quite uncomfortable to walk.  We made a quick stop for a couple of beers to chill for later, and soon we were all comfy in our room.

No dinner out tonight, but we did enjoy a late night snack--a delicious cheese board and glass of wine from our hotel restaurant.

Good night from lovely Brussels!

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Today was our "moving- on" day--we're on our way to Brussels for the last 4 nights of this trip.

We checked out of our apartment at 11:00, and the very kind apartment owner gave us a ride to the train station.  How nice is that?

We bought our tickets, and hustled to make the 11:23 train to Brussels.  It was a short 1/2 hour ride into Brussels Central station.  We followed the signs for the exit where how hotel is--they weren't kidding when they said very near the train station--it's literally attached to the lower level shopping area of the station!

By noon we were checking in to our hotel-The Novotel Off Grand Place.  Our room wasn't ready yet, but they stored our luggage and we set off to explore a little and find some lunch.  There's a small square in front of our hotel and there was a craft market set up today--we did a quick cruise through, and then continued on down the street.  There were LOTS of people out today--oh my!

We chose a sidewalk cafe just a couple blocks away, we didn't feel like wandering in the crazy crowds, and we were hungry as we'd not had any breakfast in Gent.  David ordered a steak--rare.  And RARE it was, I think it might have moo'd at him!  He was a good sport and ate it all,  and even said it was very good.

I ordered BBQ ribs and they were meaty & delicious.  Both meals were served with fries (they DON'T call then FRENCH fries here in Belgium!!).  As usual, the fries were crisp and VERY good.

We made our way back to our hotel to see if our room was ready--no such luck.  We were given two free drinks at the lobby bar while we waited--nice service.

Finally, our room was ready and we just dumped our bags and headed back out to explore.

Our room is very nice, but a bit on the small size, especially for an "Executive Room" upgrade.  The upgrade includes a free mini-bar, with bottled water,  bad beer (Stella Artoise) and a Special K bar--whooopeee!

The view is nice, though:

A small square with statue near the train station--lots of music and dancing:

We are directly above the Smurf Statue, installed in 2012.  Kind of cute……..

After we checked in to our room,  we wandered in the direction of The Grand Place, the historic old market square in Brussels.

We passed this pretty covered passageway, I don't think it's original, but it looks like a good spot to do some window shopping.  We thought we'd save it for latter--way too many people!

We came to the Grand Place--it's really very pretty, but I didn't take any pictures.  There was a large stage set up for a jazz concert, and it was MOBBED with people--seriously wall to wall people and we just shuffled our way right on out of there!  We'll try again tomorrow…….

We continued our slow shuffle down a small side street trying, without much success, to get away from the crowds.  We came to a big crowd taking lots of photos.  Ahhhh-we've found the "Mannequin Pis"!  That famous little (2 foot tall) guy was installed on this street corner in 1619.  It's been stolen several times, so I'm guessing this is not the original but a replica.

I've read that the city of Brussels has been given hundreds of costumes from countries all over the world, and on special occasions the statue is dressed up.  I was thankful we got to see him in his natural state.  Although---I've seen photos of him in an Elvis outfit………..

We kept wandering and finally got out of the crush of people, somewhat.  We thought it was time for a mid afternoon rest and cold beer, and finally found an empty table on the sidewalk.

We sat outside at this little pub:

We snagged a table next to a nice couple that were just leaving.  They struck up a conversation, and we  ended up spending 2 hours visiting with them!  It was their 40th anniversary and they'd driven from their home in Antwerp to the big city to celebrate.  We bought them a beer--then they bought us a beer….etc, lots of FUN!  They were a lovely couple and we really had a great time visiting with them.   He is a musician--and he even sang a few lines for us.  We exchanged emails and FB info, Dirk even said he'd give us a personalized tour if we ever returned to Antwerp.  We'd sure take them up on that offer--they were just wonderful fun!

Have I ever mentioned that we meet the nicest people when we travel?? We are so lucky!

Dirk and Ria--our new friends from Antwerp:

After our lovely 2 hour visit with Dirk and Ria it was just about dinner time.  We'd spotted an Ethiopian restaurant a couple of blocks away, and that intrigued us.  Unfortunately they were full--but we'll try again before we leave Brussels.

We settled on a nearby Cuban Cantina.

Here's David:

We each ordered the "national dish of Cuba" (according to their menu)  Ropa Vieja, which is Spanish for "old clothes".  It's a shredded pork dish, and it was pretty good.  It was served with delicious fried bananas, rice with black beans and African potatoes.  We ordered a side dish of corn puree--really good stuff.  Add a carafe of red wine, and it was a fine dinner.

 We made our way through the crowds back to our hotel.  The Grand Place was still crazy crowded, but we definitely will be going back to see some of the interesting buildings.  Tomorrow--when there's not so many people!

Good night from Brussels--please keep your fingers crossed for lighter crowds tomorrow!

Saturday, May 23, 2015


We actually got a fairly early start this morning--9:30!

Our plan for the day:  An antique/flea market and a visit to a church in the same area.

Along the way we spotted some more street art on a building.  This one is definitely strange:

We made our way to St. Jacob's Church, and stopped in for a good look.

The Church of St. Jacob, built in 1180 on the site of St. Jacob's wooden chapel (1093)

Main altar:

Some early decorative painting remains, this is from 1579

Looking towards the organ and rose window:

Rose window:

The market we wanted to see was in the small square next to St. Jacob's.  There were lots of clothing booths, etc, but also several tables of cool vintage items & antiques to browse.  Didn't buy anything, but it's always fun to look:

After leaving the St. Jacob area we came across another market, one that we had planned to visit on Saturday.  We gave it a quick cruise-through--not much of interest.

We poked along, heading in the general direction of the apartment.  Along the way we looked at a few spots to have a late lunch. We settled on this small place, and chose an outside table.  It was a little chilly in the shade, but the view was so nice we didn't want to sit inside.

I ordered another bowl of waterzooi--it was very good!

David ordered the lunch special-lamb shank with mashed potatoes.  It was delicious.  We are so sad that we can't get good lamb like this at home.  We love lamb!

The view at lunch-David with the Town Hall in the background:

Looking the other way--nice view of the Belfry:

After our lunch we made our way home, taking a slightly different route.  We've passed this building several times, and I'm intrigued by it.  Certainly not old, but the design is interesting.  I'm guessing 1960's?

We happened to walk down the other side of the building and noticed it's lovely door:

The wood carving was really beautiful:

We spent the late afternoon and early evening just relaxing.  We went out about 7 for dinner, and decided to go back to the Greek place where we had dinner the first night here in Gent.

Of course, we each ordered lamb dishes, and just like our original meal they were delicious.

My dish--they called it saddle of lamb, but they were like tiny rolled up London broil--tender, delicious and cooked just right!

David ordered lamb cooked with vegetables, it was really good too.

We shared a carafe of red wine, relaxed and talked about what to do on Saturday.

As it turned out we stayed in all day Saturday to give my knee a rest.  Kind of boring, but probably a wise choice.

We did wander back out about 7 for some dinner, and went back to the Nepalese restaurant where we'd had lunch a couple of days ago.  We had another super delicious meal, actually the same dishes as we'd had for our lunch there.

We enjoyed our last stroll through beautiful Gent, we're really glad we've spent a few days here.  The architecture is amazing, and there's something interesting around every corner.

Sunday:  We're taking a train to Brussels--a quick 30 minute ride.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Another lazy start to our day today--since I'm not able to do full days of sightseeing we seem to have settled in to a late morning to mid afternoon schedule.  It is what it is!

After a leisurely breakfast we left our apartment about 11:30.  We only had a loose plan for today--there was a church we wanted to visit and also a castle.

We've passed this interesting building several times already--I LOVE the fairy like figures on the top:

So whimsical:

The front of Saint Nicholas Church, built in the 13th century

The "back" of the church is even prettier:

The altar area:
(There was no service at the time I took this photo-the priest was tidying up)

Pretty stained glass windows--installed in the late 1800's:

The nave--several life size saint figures:

After our brief visit to Saint Nicholas Church, we walked across the bridge towards a BIG, beautiful church we had been admiring.

St. Michael's Cathedral.  We walked all the way around and tired every door--but it was closed.  Darn! It looks very interesting, and the stained glass windows looked to be original, or at least very old.  We did notice lots of renovation/road work around the front--so maybe it's not an active church right now.
The main entrance was definitely not open!

The view down the canal from St. Michael's Bridge:
This cool building is now a hostel-22E a night for a bed!
Another view from St. Michael's Bridge:

One of the very few street art pieces we've seen on this trip:

There was a walkway under the bridge and along the canal.  What a view!

Next up: Castle of the Counts, built by Count Phillip of Alsace on the site of a 9th century wooden castle

Entrance to the castle.

We didn't pay to go into the castle, the reviews were pretty "mixed" and there was mention of several sets of steep and tall stairs.  Not for me this trip!

David by the big entrance doors:

We were happy to just see it from the outside--it's pretty cool:

There was a small square with several cafes right across from the castle, so we relaxed for a while with a couple of cold beers--beer with a view!!

We wandered a few more side streets, then decided we were ready for lunch.  We chose a place by the canal and ordered the local Gent specialty--waterzooi.  It's a chicken/vegetable soup/stew dish--really delicious.  This one had chicken, leeks, celery and carrots.

Another goat cheese salad--not the best, for sure.  David ate the cheese and left most of the rest.  The bowl of waterzooi was huge, so we had plenty to eat.

After our lunch we slowly made our way back to our apartment.  I'm trying to limit my walking, hoping to help my knee get better.  We decided to stay in for the rest of the day, so we stopped by a cheese shop to pick up a piece of really good cheese to have with a baguette and wine for dinner.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing and reading--me with my knee propped up.

Tomorrow in Gent--there are a couple of markets we are interested in, hoping my knee is better!