Travel Photographs - Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium
Here we are at the third installment of my recent trip to Belgium. Our guide, Michael Eyns, gave an excellent tour of Damme and Ghent, Belgium. Leaving Ghent, Michael drove us on to Brussels. The first stop in the city was at the Cinquantenaire Park. The park was built in 1880 to celebrate 50 years of Belgium independence. It consists of 90 acres dotted with statues, hedges, manicured lawns, and museums. I think one of the most fascinating things about the park is the major roadway that runs underneath. Instead of destroying the park, a great tunnel was constructed.
The park is a great introduction to Brussels. I recommend spending at least a little while in the park soaking in the view and the relaxed and festive mood of everyone.
Then it was on to the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel close to the City Centre. The hotel was excellent and convenient. It was only a couple of blocks from the beautiful Grand Place. The staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable and the food in the dining room was excellent. For those true foodies, not on a budget, the hotel also boasts a restaurant with a 2 star Michelin chef. Unfortunately, I was not able to sample the chefs talent.
Ten O'Clock the first morning we were met in the lobby by our guide for the day, Dominique Janssens. Dominique led us on a 4 hour walking tour of the area around the Grand Place in Brussels Centre. This was of particular interest to me, as I spent a lot of time in this area 40 years ago, when I lived in Obourg and worked in Casteau, Belgium. I wanted to share the beauty and architecture with my significant other, Rose. Dominique paced his tour to accommodate our slower pace and limited mobility.
The first stop on our walking tour was the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula. A grand cathedral built around 1226, and has continually been added to. A thorough restoration of the cathedral was carried out between 1983 and November 1999. Remains of a Romanesque church were discovered, as weIl as a Romanesque crypt under the choir.
The next several hours were spent walking the streets of Brussels on our way to the Grand Place. The old portions of the city are fabulous with Chocolate shops, Gaufre (Waffle) shops, and shops selling a myriad of Beer. I was told that Belgium has over 3,000 beers made in country. On the tour was a stop at the infamous Manneken Pis.
It may be small, but the Manneken Pis is a major tourist attraction in Brussels. There are many legends about the origins of this urinating lad; just pick which one suits you and go with it. There are over 1,000 costumes the statue wears on special occasions throughout the year.
The Brussels Grand Place is one of the most beautiful in Europe! Most of the buildings are adorned with gold gilt and are former guild halls. Most of the Grand Place dates from after 1695 when the French Army bombarded Brussels and destroyed most of the houses. The Guilds quickly set to rebuilding in even more grandeur than before the destruction. Most of the Guild Houses are now home to businesses, such as: Chocolatiers, Gaufres (Waffles), Food and Drink Establishments, Starbucks and Hard Rock Cafe. Still one of my favorite places is the Le Roy d’Espagne brasserie ("King of Spain"). A Food and Drink pub that I first experienced in 1976. It is mostly unchanged from those days, and still serves good food and drinks for nearly every taste.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert should not be missed during your stay in Brussels. This shopping area was built in 1847. It was the first such covered shopping area in Europe, and still one of the best. The galerie of shops are under an arched glass-paned roof with a delicate cast-iron framework. The perfect place to enjoy your coffee or hot chocolate with a sinfully delicious desert on a rainy day in Brussels.
Rose and I had the best hot chocolate we had ever had at this chocolate shop in the Galeries. Part of our walking tour of Brussels was a chocolate tasting. Our Guide, Dominique, took us to Neuhaus, the inventor of the Praline. Neuhaus has been in business since 1857 and has a wonderful shop in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. We spent several enjoyable strolls under the cover of the Galeries. One of the best things is that it was only about two blocks from the hotel, and a short cut to the Grand Place.
The train trip to Antwerp was probably the weakest link in our itinerary. To put it mildly, we boarded the wrong train. The destination was correct, but it was a local that stopped at every little village and took forever to arrive in Antwerp. A very kind conductor informed us of our error, and told us where to get off, and which track to wait on to board the express. There was a litle mix-up with the guide meeting us in Antwerp, as he was ill and they had to find a substitute. We finally connected and Daniel LaCroix began our walking tour of Antwerp. The train station in Antwerp was a beautiful piece of architecture.
Antwerp was a nice day trip, but I did not enjoy it near as much as Brugges and Brussels, partly because my feet and knees were about worn out by this time. The Grand Place is grand, but not as spectacular as Brussels. The river and canals were very picturesque and well used by tourists and residents alike. As all of Belgium, Antwerp will warrant a better look when I return.
With the help of our guide riding back with us, we took the subway to the train station, and the correct train back to Brussels. Thank you Daniel.
One last night in Brussels, and a last go for the Liege Waffles that I have got to learn to make.
All good things must come to an end, and such was our 10 days in Belgium. It was a great trip and I have to give my appreciation to FireBird Tours. They arranged this tour exactly as I requested, and contracted with English speaking guides that were all excellent. I can hardly wait for my next adventure.
Thank you for reading these blogs. Follow these links to the first two blog posts: Travel Photographs - Brugge, Belgium and Travel Photographs - Damme to Ghent, Belgium. By clicking here, you can also view all of my Belgium Travel Photos.
Keywords: #jimwalkerphotography, Antwerp, Belgium, Brussels, Europe, Lewiston, Maine, Photographers, photography, Photos, Professional
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