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Published: September 11th 2007
Finding our hotel was a nightmare. We must have missed a turn on the ring road coming into Brussels, and from then on our written instructions on how to get to the hotel no longer helped. The street the hotel was located on didn't exist on our map which was decidedly unfortunate but we eventually made it to the hotel about 9.30pm and checked in, pretty tired from all the searching.
The following morning we took a short walk to the centre of Brussels and spent the day walking around the 'Lower Town' which seems to be mainly a tourist centre. Belgium is an interesting place - it is a fusion of French and Dutch, so everything is signposted in both languages, and you get roads called names such as 'Rue De La Regence Regentschapsstraat'.
We ended up in the main square of Lower Town Brussels, called the 'Grand Place'. Four magnificent buildings create the walls of the square, and in the middle there is a market and a band was playing - it was all terribly nice but did feel like a bit of a sham since it seemed to be a big show for tourists more than
anything else. We wandered down to the famous 'Manneken-Pis' - the famous statue of a small boy peeing. A lot of the tourism and souvenirs of Brussels are based on this statue, and all the chocolate shops and stores sell their versions. People from all over the world have sent about 550 outfits for the Manneken-Pis to wear, and the Belgian's dress him up on certain days of the month. There is even a museum (which we didn't visit) dedicated to these outfits which include miniature royal costumes from all over the world and even an Elvis outfit.
Belgium has four famous exports - beer, chocolate, waffles and lace, and during our short time in Brussels we were bombarded with all four. Grimbergen beer seems to be the most popular, and Brandt enjoyed a few throughout the day. There are countless chocolate stores that tempt you inside with their free samples and chocolate fountains. Once inside you’re presented with chocolate truffles, cappuccino and praline filled chocolates and sweets. There is shop after shop selling waffles covered in chocolate sauce and fruit. We weren't so tempted by the lace, but there were lace stores and museums all over the town.
After lunch we visited the St Michel church where we were suitably impressed with the grand architecture though we had to look from the fringes since there was a wedding was in progress.
After a mission to check out of our hotel the following morning (we had to wait in a queue for nearly an hour) we hit the road again, heading back to Holland. We stopped in a small town called Dendermonde for lunch which was really neat and authentic. We went into the main town square which housed the old town hall on one end and had a band playing at the other end. The two sides were lined with restaurants and cafes so we had lunch and coffee while listening to the band. Most of the locals were drinking beer but since we still had a long way to drive we had to move on fairly quickly, though we did take a look through the old town hall (which has been converted to a small art gallery) on our way out.
We are now on our way to Utrecht, where tomorrow we will be meeting up Brandt's great Aunty Joop.
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