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Published: November 15th 2007
Another hideously early start, although this time it was more palatable as we caught a cab to waterloo rather than the dreaded night buses! We met Ginny at the station and in no time were on the Eurostar racing our way to Brussels 😊
On arrival our first mission was to find a decent waffle shop and begin our Belgian culinary experience in proper fashion! We found a great place not far from Grand Place and ordered the famous Belgian waffles - they were great! Incredibly light and yummy 😊 As we sat in the waffle-house Ginny noticed a very promising sign across the street 'The Chocopolis' - brilliant - our next stop was sorted. There is an unbelievable amount of chocolate shops in Brussels, it's verging on ridiculous - there must be hundreds of them - sometimes there are 3-4 in a row, one after the other. Of course it was our duty as tourists to visit as many as humanly possible! The best part of these shops is that they usually give free sample to entice you to buy, yeah right, why buy when you can go from shop to shop gorging yourself for free.... ahhh chocolate. ....
Well ok we did buy SOME! In fact, Ginny had quite a load of choco by the time we left Brussels! ;-) After the Chocopolis we headed to a few more chocolate shops then made our way to the Grand Place.
The Grand Place is the central historical square/plaza in Brussels - it really is quite magnificent - a large square area surrounded on all sides by huge intricately carved buildings, all in the fascinating style of Flemish Baroque (a Belgian interpretation of Italian Baroque). The whole area is stunning, pictures just don't do it sufficient justice! After a good wander around we went in search of the famous 'Mannikin Pis' statue - a very small statue of a wee boy, well, weeing. This seems to be a bit of an icon for Brussels - as he is dressed up 3 times a month for the benefit of tourists - there are over 750 costumes for the little guy (I assume he doesn't wee when dressed?!). It was all a bit odd to say the least, so we quickly returned to our comfort zone of visiting chocolate shops.
After some more samples, we wandered in search of the
chocolate museum - we didn't find it, but we did find an extremely random sculpture - it appeared to be an old fountain surrounded my military blockades and posts - wierd - Kristi loved it. (see photo)
By this time we were getting quite hungry from all the chocolate, so we went in search of the restaurant where we were to have lunch. We eventually found Chez Leon on the famed Street of Butchers (famous for having nothing but restaurants its entire length). A cool place which was much bigger on the inside then it appeared from the street - they even have their own beer - which I was obliged to try of course. Kristi and I had the first steaks we'd had since leaving NZ - Yummy! After lunch we eventually found the chocolate museum - which was a bit anti-climactic in the end, but still quite cool. Kristi and I were chuffed to see that the featured choclate there was Callebaut - which we use for our fountains at home - Kristi recognized the flavour after trying 1 single chocolate button - scary! Next we wandered off to jump on a bus and try to take
in the rest of the main city sites before it got dark (trying chocolate along the way as well of course!).
The bus tour was pretty good, but due to a mixture of too much chocolate and a very early start, we all struggled to stay awake for the duration! The Atomium was hugely impressive, we had seen pictures and assumed it was a sculpture, but in fact it is a huge multi-room building, far, far bigger than we could have guessed - It stands just over 100metres tall and is visable from miles away! The rest of the tour was cool, heaps of churches and palaces etc - but we were struck with how ugly all the modern buildings were in comparison. The EU parliamentary headquarters is like a big glass blob in the middle of this lovely historic city!
After the tour we were feeling a bit more perky, so we went to, you guessed it, a chocolate shop. This one was called choclate planet and was easily one of the best - there was even a funky little cafe next door where we had a coffee and hot chocolate... how the Belgians are not the
size of houses is beyond me - there is chocolate EVERYWHERE!!! Despite all the chocolate, I did manage to sample quite a few (9!) Belgian beers as well - which are extremely strong (5-13% on average). We found one shop that stocked over 400 individual beers and ales - I could have stayed there for days, but Kristi and Ginny wanted to move on... to find more chocolate I should imagine!
We had an hour or so to kill before the train home so we decided to hunt down a sushi place for a light dinner - our logic being that the healthy sushi would off-set the vast quantities of chocolate we had consumed... or something like that! The sushi was, as always, fantastic - but even cooler was the fact that we could watch it being prepared as we sat in the restaurant, via a big plasma TV which was linked to a video camera in the kitchen... we were quite glad the chef didn't sneeze or pick his nose during making of our meal!
After dinner we reluctantly made our way back to Brussels Midi station for the train home (via Wet Kunst station!). We were
sad to leave after such a brilliant day, but needed to rest our bloated tummies! I don't think I have ever eaten so much in a day!
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