What Really Happened That Week We Went To Brussels

This week we went to Brussels for 4 days. They were a quite good four days filled with shopping, food, museums and rain. Lots of damn rain.

We took photos as evidence of our epic journey. We didn’t document the rain because that would be stupid and at one point we were being pelted by football sized hail (might be a tad exaggerated). As Cat quite rightly puts it we experienced The Day After Tomorrow in weather conditions, that’s NOT an exaggeration. But enough about the weather!

IMG_0311On the Eurostar on the way to Brussels Mama paid for us to be upgraded to Standard Premier… The difference between the norm and this is amazing. You feel all posh as they bring you a meal to your table, they balance a tiny tray with your coffee cup, milk and sugars in one hand while pouring your coffee from a snazzy coffee pot in the other hand. Oh and the train is moving.

We stayed in a lovely penthouse near Grand Place. Such a stunning place owned by a lovely couple who had great tastes in the antique area.IMG_0318 This meant we could buy in and cook our own food which led me onto Cheese Fondue flavoured crisps… I’m still undecided on them. Speaking of food we all know what Belgium is famous for. If it’s escaped your attention it’s chocolate, beer, chocolate, waffles, chocolate and chips. We bought lots and lots of chocolate. We also bought some beer.

One of the nicest places to go walking (when it’s not raining loads) is near the Hotel D’Ville and the Grand Place. This is a beautiful courtyard type square that in summer is filled with vendors selling flowers and the likes. At this time of year it was quieter even with the tourists bustling around. You can also have horse drawn carriage rides from here and there’s a Starbucks and a tourist information centre. On the first night we actually ate in this area… We went to Hard Rock Cafe where you can get some very decent American food served by wonderfully friendly staff who aren’t afraid to sit down and have a chat with you. I know you don’t go on holiday to eat the same food but we make it our mission to go to the Hard Rock Cafe wherever we go so we had to do it.

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On the second day it rained. A lot. We walked up rue du Neuve which is a pedestrianised street full of high street stores. It can get quite busy but it’s worth a browse. We also had breakfast in one of my favourite cafe’s in Brussels. It’s a little place called Peck 47. They do gorgeous smooth coffee, excellent blends of fruit juices and some stunning food. I had Eggs Benny and Cat had Eggs Hemmigway. The Benny came wth loads of crispy bacon and really set me up for the day. We carried on shopping and buying chocolate after that then we went back to the flat to have a picnic and allow me to get some work done. There was a reason why I had to go to Brussels, journalism waits for no man.

Thursday may be the most profound awe inspiring day of my life. It rained a lot of the day, not all though! Then the meteorite hail came and I saw someone knocked out by it (I’m joking, it was probably close though) First off we went to BelVue museum which, when it’s open, is a lovely little museum about the history of Brussels and Belgium. It’s currently being refurbished though so we went to the Coudenburg part instead. This is a museum under BelVue.filename-img-0339-jpg

It’s the old Royal palace and as some amazing archaeological history to it. It won’t be everyones cup of tea but it is worth having a look around. Even if it’s just to watch the big door swing closed and shut you in. An even better part is finding your way out. You do get a map but when you’re that deep underground that you have no phone signal and you realise they’ve installed toilets and seats it can make you feel a little unnerved about the situation.

After this we had lunch in Green Kitchen their lovely restaurant/ cafe. Here everything is freshly made on the day and you can create your own salads or pick from the ready made quiches, sandwiches and soup. It really is a great place to go eat, most of the museums have great food selections to them and usually have great deals on.

IMG_0326We then took a leisurely, rainy, walk down to the European Parliament. This is where I work a lot of the time when I’m in Brussels. If you get a chance I would highly recommend the guided tours they have on. They must be one of the only working Parliament buildings in the world that gives almost full access to tour groups and the tours are available in the corresponding languages to the 24 countries in the EU.

Behind the EU building you’ll find the Science Museum which contains rocks, shiny rocks, sparkly rocks and DINOSAURS. Everything from big dinosaurs to tiny dinosaurs. The kids and school groups that were there seemed to be really enjoying it. I liked the dinosaurs too.

You might be wondering what part of my day was awe inspiring.IMG_0337 Well I met a certain little boy. A certain little NAKED Boy who is doing something that some people might laugh at and other people might be disgusted by. Yep I went and found the Mannekin Pis or as we Brits call him the Pissing Boy. This little boy is on souvenirs all over the city and is well worth the effort to find him and join the crowds to have a selfie with. At certain times of the year the locals like to dress him up in appropriate clothing so it’s fun to see what state of undress he’s in. As I mentioned he was in his birthday suit when I visited him.

I might add that me and Cat went to one of our favourite museums in Brussels on the Wednesday… The Belgian Comic Strip Centre. They have some awesome permanent exhibitions showing all the best of Belgian comics including the Smurfs. They look at the progression of the comic and how digital art as changed what we read and look at in todays comics. They also have a floor of temporary exhibitions which on this visit were the works of Fred Jannin and Jean-Pol. Take my word for it you’ll be smiling the whole way around the exhibitions and it’ll really open your eyes to the Belgium contribution to the comic world.

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I had fun on my Brussels adventure I ate lots of yummy food including, sushi and waffles. In fact I didn’t buy anything but food and drink. Oh wait I bought a flat pack t-shirt. I have a new found love for the French language because I really don’t get Dutch.

So as I write this from my Standard Premier seat on the Eurostar to London, in which we’ve literally just exited the euro tunnel to the great British sunshine (Fuck me there’s no rain!), the first message I receive on my iPhone to alert me I’m back on British soil is not a hello from my service provider but an alert about Jeremy Hunt, I realise I’ve had a pretty good week. Not all work, not all play but there’s lots of chocolate to eat and a naked boy to smile at on my photo album.

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  • We travelled to Brussels Midi Station from St Pancras International with Eurostar and booked our accommodation through Airbnb. Other alternatives are available.
  • There are plenty more places to eat and museums to go to in Brussels. We just wanted to show you the variation there is in the city and some of our favourites.
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Berlin, History and Art

So, my sister wrote a blog entry https://welldidyouevah.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/berlin-land-of-currywurst-great-museums-and-beer/ Talking about Berlin. I’m going to focus more on one of the Museums, one Exhibition and I have to mention a bit of Shopping.

Pergamon Museum/Pergamon Altar

A treat for any history lover. Or if your like me,  a lover of Greek Mythology.

The Pergamon Museum is located on Berlin’s Museum Island. Seeing the  Pergamon Altar was one of the highlights of my trip… Still trying to find out where Persephone is on the exterior though. We had a suspicion the remains of Hades was near the Nymphs, but there was no Persephone. I’m not going to go on a nag about that. Some historian might explain to me later on how I was wrong and she was knocked off or something.

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Those of you who don’t know, or haven’t visited Berlin to see this. The image above, shows the reconstruction of the Pergamon Altar, which is in basic terms is a Greek Altar. Normal people, back in those times wouldn’t be able to enter, so you can see what a big thing this is. That this thing is still in a shape where it can be reconstructed, viewed, touched and in a way entered.

On the outside of this building, were the Greek Gods and Goddesses.

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< Like this, the sculptures tell a story. Such as this one shows the Goddess of War, Athena, fighting Gaia, the goddess of earth. The Gods and Goddesses decorate the exterior, but like I said Persephone, was either in the Underworld at the time of this sculpting or the idea of her hadn’t been invented. (I have a soft spot for the Hades and Persephone story)

As you can see from this the sculptures aren’t in the best shape. Majority of the artifacts in this museum have been stored away in the wars, plus been moved all over the place. This was built in the BC era and it is a giant work of architecture so obviously, it would be a miracle if it was still in one piece. It would probably be still in Greece, if it was still in one piece.

Price. €18 will get you into ALL of the venues on Museum Island, so worth it even if Greek Mythology isn’t your thing

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The Salvador Dali Exhibition 

I found this part weird. The exhibition is a permanent venue in Potsdamer Platz  I looked forward to seeing some of Salvador Dali’s work. However, I will admit, when walking to the entrance of this. The entrance was on the side under a tunnel. The Photo > The Black tunnel, I think that might have been where you had to go to get to the doors. Either way, the front was like the three windows, but there was no door to get in by the front.

My first thought was, “This can’t be the place” You immediately see the lip shaped sofas outside the glass fronted building. Ok I have to remember we are going to a surreal exhibition, I still thought looking at of the out of the way entrance, lip shaped sofas outside a room that is covered in bright red, didn’t give off a art exhibition feel. But like I said I shouldn’t have expected anything normal. Salvador Dali probably wouldn’t have wanted anything normal.

If your a real big fan of Dali, you wouldn’t mind the price. However, cost wise. Museum Island, you can get into ALL of the museums, on that island for €18, to get into Salvador Dali Exhibition, you had to pay €11. I will admit, I am a fan of Dali’s work but I did find €11 at the start of this a bit much.

Inside. No cameras, they take bags off of you when you pay,  were allowed so there aren’t really any photo’s of this. But you get to see work you never think Dali would do. Dali is mostly known for his surrealist paintings of melting clocks etc. But here we see sketches, and some of his earlier work, plus some sculpture, one piece that stuck out for me was the crystal sculpture. Overall, I still favour his painted work, but his illustrations will be mentioned in my university degree work.

Price about €11. Worth it if you are an art fan. If your not though. Maybe stick to free galleries and looking at his work over the internet.

The Culture… Ok Shopping.

Berlin. I’m just going to write this part due to the amount of Manga I came home with. Ok, I do not understand German. I bought them because I have never seen the manga I bought being sold in England. Barajou no Kiss/ Kiss of the Rose Princess by Aya Shouoto and Kiss/Hug by Mitsuki Kako are some of my favorite manga stories, so when I saw them…. and the massive collection of manga, it was Christmas Day for me again

Alexanderplatz

Alexa Shopping Centre, is where you will find the large selection of Manga (all in German though so sorry, the good side is that reading manga in a different language does make you appreciate the art more) There is a three floor book shop, sorry not sure of the name. But if you end up in Berlin and are a fan of Manga… or even shopping. Get down to Alexa Shopping Centre. You can even get some piercings and tattoos and pick up a Hello Kitty Toaster!

Price: Free. Unless you want  to add transport costs and the amount you will spend in there. Transport, doesn’t cost much for a 5 day ticket that will get you on all the trains and buses. How much you will spend in there? Depends how much you have and how much you can restrain yourself.

Food

Well we have to eat don’t we? Hard Rock Cafe and a Burrito cafe. Enough said.

Honestly, if you are uncomfortable eating German food, want a break from ,”Germanness,” or just want some English company Hard Rock Cafe is the place to go

Hard Rock Cafe