Sunday, November 19, 2017

Brussels - So much to see. A day is not enough.

What could possibly be better than a beautiful evening in Brussels? Answer: A full day! But that would prove to be "not enough."

Our day began with another brisk walk to the Metro station. The tram was a new adventure last night but now it was the obvious choice for the most affordable and accessible way to get around Brussels. The first thing I noticed in the daylight was that Fall was in full force with beautiful colors throughout the city! 

Photo by Sheri Larson
We were at the end of the tram line and 15 stops later, we reached the heart of the city. The tram line gave us a good look at what I would call "purposeful graffiti." I've seen many city tram lines with random graffiti that is riddled with attempts to grab power or determine territory. In Brussels, graffiti was more of a giving display of artistic expression. There were miles of extensive, beautiful murals. None of them seemed to overlap, but rather shared in a collaborative expression of the diverse gift of life. I found it very refreshing and wished other cities would borrow this idea.

Photo by Sheri Larson
As we exited the tram, the city was just as bustling as the night before. The air was cold enough to see your breath, but still enough that a medium jacket kept us warm. We were excited to see that many more businesses were open in the day. I thought Brussels would be more of a night town, but many businesses close around 7 or 8pm. The chocolate stores were in full force and we went back into a few of them to take care of a few holiday requests.

As we made our way into the Royal Place square, the architecture was even more stunning. I don't think I noticed all of the gold trimmed buildings the night before. It was beautiful in the daylight! 

I found myself wishing we were here two weeks later as we could see all of the Christmas decorations being hung throughout the city and we could tell that Christmas time in Brussels would be a beautiful sight to behold!

Leaving the heart of the city we walked up a large hill to what would turn out to be the museum district. There were majestic buildings with ornate courtyards and scenic lookouts. We were definitely at the highest part of the city which gave us an incredible view back towards the Royal Place. It was worth the walk!

We ventured into one of the museums that featured a collection of rare books. There were 15th century Bibles on display as well as original era "Romeo and Juliet" copies. Even though I couldn't understand much of the placard descriptions, I felt the richness of history on display. The museum was free and I'm so glad we went in.

At the top of this section of the city was a collection of very nice hotels like the Hilton and Marriot. I looked them up on Trip Advisor and found out that they were only 2/3 the price of the hotel we stayed at near the convention center, and WAY nicer. In hindsight, I think I still would have picked the convention center hotel due to its proximity to the EXPO. I can't imagine hauling all our convention gear from the city square area. That said if you come to Brussels and are not here for a convention, consider staying up the hill from the Royal Place. It's about a 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk, but the area is safe and the walk will help your Fitbit. 

Photo by Sheri Larson
We spent a couple of hours at the top of the hill and by now the sun was starting to set. It's amazing the difference in temperature between 2pm and 3:30pm. A slight breeze made us wish we had our heavier jackets instead of the medium ones. As we walked down the hill I could feel my face starting to freeze, not my favorite feeling in the world. 

We really wanted to see a bit more of Brussels so we decided to take the Hop on Hop off bus around the city. Both levels were heated which was nice. Sheri and I have loved this tour in all of the cities we've visited and this one was worth it too. I'd recommend it if you ever come here.

After our bus tour, we made our way back to the square for a hot beverage. Starbucks was the choice and it hit the spot. Our day in Brussels was drawing to a close and we wished we had one more day to explore the Atomium and Mini Europe. Maybe next time. There is so much to see in Europe and one of these days we'd like to see it by train.

Next stop Croatia.

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