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Last days in Brussels

BELGIUM | Thursday, 14 July 2011 | Views [614]

Kappellekerk, Brussels

Kappellekerk, Brussels

It was only an hour on the train to Brussels, and I managed to negotiate the subway easily enough to my next hostel. Hello Hostel is a nice change from the last one – big, open, light room with a small kitchen but nice dining area and an outside courtyard. The area it’s in seems a little dodgy with a lot of guys hanging around in the street or sitting outside cafes, but I felt relatively safe wandering around (just not at night!). It also helps when you can’t understand what their smart remarks when you walk past! I had a lazy day as I had three days to explore the city.

Finally awoke to blue sky! I decided to make use of the good weather to take photos of the city and any outside tourist areas before hitting any museums. I headed up to the top floor of Parking 58 (just a carpark) for a good view of the city (which is really just a city, not very pretty), before walking to the Grand Place (main square) to look at all the old buildings/palaces/museums surrounding the square, and fight my way through the hundreds of tourists towards the tiny “Mannekin Pis” statue. I bought a postcard as there was no way I was going to get a nice photo unless I headed down there at 6am (and I’ve had enough of that). I walked about 5min down the road and found myself by a section of the first city wall built in the 13th century which was practically deserted and so a great place for a peaceful picnic. After lunch I walked past the “Kapellekerk” and skatepark to the “Plais de Justice” and then up towards the “Royal Palace”, stopping at the pretty little “Egmont Park” where the grass is jealously guarded by angry park wardens with very loud whistles. First time I’ve ever come across active policing of the “Keep off the Grass” signs! I’m over visiting palaces, but walked through the palace gardens, with the massive fountain at one end, and towards the huge cathedral. From the cathedral I walked through the marketplace and more expensive shopping area towards “Gare Centrale” where I caught the tube back to the hostel.

After one semi-sunny day the rain was back, so after catching the tube to “Gare Midi” to pick up my Eurostar ticket, I visited the massive fleamarket near the station. It is really just a huge car boot sale though with a lot of crap, and one man’s trash is not always another man’s treasure. I couldn’t really be bothered bargaining but did get a nice metal bracelet for 1 euro. After a coffee at a nice little café near the market I walked back to the “Plais de Justice” and caught the glass elevator that passes between the lower and upper town. I then walked the long way through a lovely garden towards the Music Museum, where you walk around with a set of earphones to listen to samples of music while checking out the different instrument displays. I then walked a little further to the Museum Area, where I chose to visit the “Coudenberg” – spectacular underground ruins of 15th century Brussels (including streets that are now covered by the current streets) and the palace of Emperor Charles the 5th. After that I was done wandering around in the crappy weather, so I headed back towards the metro though the Grand Place, stopping to buy a box of hand-made praline chocolates for a friend.

The following day I had a bit of a later start and headed back to the market ready look for some good bargains. I bought a couple of bracelets, only to discover a link missing in one after I’d paid for it. Fortunately I found a lovely little bead shop in a side-street so I was able to buy a few links to repair the bracelet, as well as some bits and pieces to make Christmas presents. After that I headed over to the Comic Museum, where I learnt about the creators of Tintin (originally called “Kuifie”), Lucky Luke and the Smurfs. The rest of the dreary day was spent in coffee shops staying out of the rain.

On my final day in Europe I had some time to kill before my 4pm train back to London, so I left my luggage in storage at the hostel and caught the tube into town where I ate an over-priced waffle and wandered through the now-familiar tourist-packed streets in search of a coffee shop where I could shelter from the drizzle and catch up on my journal. I found a lovely alternative café with amazing coffee and opera music filling the room to create a nice warm atmosphere. After picking up my bags I caught the tube to Gare Midi, where I went through customs and boarded the Eurostar. After nearly three and a half months my big trip through Europe was finally over and I only wish it didn't have to end. But it was time to get back to work and start planning my final trips before heading home.

Tags: brussels, comic museum, coudenberg, mannekin pis, palaces, street markets

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