Day 1 in Bruxelles – Mannequin de Pis and Frites! 12 April 2013

Today we headed into the old heart of Bruxelles. We had only stayed here for a couple of days on our previous trip and our main memories were:

– the brand new youth hostel that we stayed in which had zero hot water but we were too travel weary and used to bad conditions to remember to complain about it
– the statue of the Manequin Pis – the little pissing boy
– frites (hot chips) with mayonnaise in cones
– the Grande Platz – main square
– Palais du Royale – the beautiful royal palace which is only open to the public one month of year and we happened to be there at the right time. It was full of gold decorations and free to visit.

We were keen to revisit some of these and also see some of the local haunts of our friends.

We waked to the Metro and were delighted to walk past a Le Pain Quotidien in our friend’s neighbourhood – we now know that it is a chain but a very pleasant one.

The Metro stations are in much better condition than the Parisian ones and each one has a different themed tile mural on the walls. A lot of them are also under renovation.

We caught the Metro to Parc du Cinquantenaire (Park of the fiftieth anniversary) and got out to see the famous arches which are flanked by museums. This is a famous landmark in Belgium and was built during the reign of Leopold II to commemorate fifty years of Belgian independence.

The weather was quite drizzly and it was a day of taking coat hoods on and off and putting umbrellas up and down (again).

We walked through the park and got back on the Metro again to get in close to the old town centre.

This time we got off at Parc and walked through the Parc de Bruxelles. It was much prettier than Jardin du Tuileries which has a lot of gravel. This was full of lush grass and lots of plants about to burst into spring. There were lots of severely espaliered trees surrounding the park which will look spectacular when the leaves come out.

We were in need of breakfast and after a false start in a Brasserie where they were smoking inside (which is banned), we ended up at Le Pain Quotidien which we found in the city. Consensus was that the Belgian version was not as good as the Parisian version and had a pre-prepared aspect to it. They were much tighter with their WiFi but at least drew the line at charging us to use their toilet…

We walked past the Palais du Royal which looked familiar. A museum has been added which displays the old palace which has been uncovered underground. We tried to return to see this later but it was too close to closing time. Definitely want to come back though.

We walked on to the Sablon platz which is quite elevated over the city and has a glass lift to the street below. We then started to meander through the cobble stoned streets, passing spectacular chocolate shops. Some are of an extremely highly specialised standard (Pierre Macolini) and there are multiple floors of chocolate displays that are dispensed by gloved staff. Others are of a more fun nature as shown n this photo.

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We quickly came across the Mannequin de Pis. The crowds gave it away. Often he is dressed to a theme but not today.

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We then had to try some frites. Excellent.

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The Grand Platz was beautiful and we had fun in the souvenir shops buying the little Belgian houses.

We had guests for dinner and the guys barbecued outside in the rapidly dropping temperature…

A very moderate day of walking at a mere 12km.

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