Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Europe Part 2

After visiting Waterloo for most of our second day in Belgium, we drove back to Brussels and parked the car in the underground parking at the hotel.
We then walked outside, went around the corner, and purchased a couple of day tickets for the hop on- hop off bus to take us around the city.

As newer tourists to some of these locals, we were quickly catching on to what a good bargain these tours were. Maybe not price wise, but definitely for helping get your head wrapped around the layout of the city.
When we were in Paris a couple of years ago, we got the day pass and rode around the city a time or two without getting off just so we could see where the highlights were in relation to everything else. We then felt pretty confident knowing where we were, and where we wanted to go on our next hop.

With tickets in hand, we only had to wait 5 minutes for the next bus to come along; aboard we went and picked a good seat to spot what was up ahead. We didn't realize till after we bought the tickets, (around 3.00 PM), that the buses here only ran till 6.30 PM, that didn't give us much time to take in the city.

So, we asked each other which highlights we really wanted to see (actually, Annette told me what I wanted to see, which funny enough were the same choices as hers), and off we went waiting for our anticipated stops.
Our "must sees" were the small fountain of Manneken Pis (little boy peeing in Flemish) and the Grand Place, a major courtyard or plaza in the old section.

Well, Manneken Pis was a delight to see, only 24" tall and peeing into a fountain 5 feet below him, he had every one's attention. This little guy has many costumes and the city dresses him up for holidays and special occasions, or even in costumes donated from countries around the world that depict the donated countries image.

A couple of blocks down one of the old city streets was the Grand Place, I have to say, this place was totally awesome! You walk down a nondescript old city block, cobblestones under feet, turn a corner, and this large open air plaza greets you. Every building rimming the plaza is a wonder unto itself; ornate architecture, life size statues, all back dropped on period buildings, led us to turn around slowly and ogle every building...and then turn around and do the same thing again! The Grand Place has it's beginnings in the 13th century when the Brussels City Hall was built on the edge of the square; ornate guildhalls and private residences followed, mostly in the 17th century, making the Grand Place what it is today.

We spent most of our time here, wandering around the Grand Place and touring a museum in one of the buildings. This... this was worth the trip to Brussels alone - please, please ensure that this is one of your main stops if you make it to this part of the world, you will not be disappointed!

Before we knew it, we had to make our way back towards the drop off point to catch the bus for the return trip. We did enjoy a tour around the rest of the city while we did the circle drive, and all too soon we were jumping off the hop on - hop off bus.

Only two days in Belgium, and we have seen centuries worth of art, architecture and history...at this rate we're sure to overload before the end of our European trip.!
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