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Friday, September 16, 2005

Brussels - Day 2

Breakfast is served downstairs - it's a strange combination. There are assorted pastries, conserves and yoghurt but then you are also given salami and cheese! I'm don't normally have cheese and salami for breakfast but then again this blog is called "Eat anything at least once" so I dig in. Coffee is fresh filter but the milk is from those little capsules. I'll need a hearty breakfast to cope with heading back up those stairs.

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First stop this morning is on my street, Rue du Marché au Charbon and it's the Notre-Dame du Bon Secours (Kerk van Onze-Lieve-Vroux van Goede Bijstand for those that speak flemish) or Our Lady of Good Hope for those english speakers out there.
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This church has seen better days - it was designed by Jan Cortvrindt and Pieter-Paul Merckx and built from 1664-1695. The French bombed most of Brussels in 1695 and this church was partially destroyed (it was rebuilt between 1696-1699). Baroque in style it is based on a circle not a latin cross.

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The Main Altar - the statue "Vierge du Bon Secours (Virgin of Good Hope)" is oak and from the 14th century. The Lateral altars are 20th century, St James on the right and St Joseph on the left.

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You'll notice a lot of murals in Brussels - most of them are from comic strips - this one, located at the corner of Rue du Marché au Charbon and Plattesteen, is Broussaile (by Frank Pé) who first appeared in Spirou magazine.

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This is the aptly named "Den SPAUWER" and yes it does look like its vomiting.

I'm just including a few pics of the Grote Markt so you can get a rough idea of it's appearance.

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An attempt to take a side view of the King's House was thawthed by a man having a wee against it's wall, people strolled past without a second glance. He wasn't in a hurry. A check some 5 minutes later saw him still facing the wall - there was just now a much longer stream running along the footpath.

If you want to see more photos of the Grote Markt (there's none with the man weeing) just click on the following link
Grote Markt/Grand Place Set

Belgium and chocolate go together...and this chocolatier in the Godiva shop busily mates plump strawberries with white chocolate
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Belgium also is synonomous with Tin Tin and you can find a Tin Tin Boutique just off from the Grote Markt
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This shop had me a little confused..It's called Australian Home Made Ice Cream but you see "Australian" is a registered trademark. I had contemplated testing out their "'straylia-ness" by walking in and asking "for some piss"...but in light of that sign near the B&B I shudder to think what I would have got.
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There is an interesting article on Wikipedia on the true origin of "Australian Homemade™" More proof of identity theft can be found on the Australian Homemade website. I'm probably coming over a bit strong but there's nothing australian about this company and it's appalling how they just claim a country and turn it into a trademark - don't get me started on what I think of the Ugg company.

Back to the travelogue, I spent a bit of time wandering around the streets surrounding the Grote Markt - you'll find a street market in the area called "Ilot Sacré." In fact my stay in Brussels is coinciding with the "Festival of Ilot Sacré" - that is a most pleasant and unexpected bonus.

My next stop was the wonderful Bourse (site of the Brussels Stock Exchange) - Designed by Léon Suys, construction took place between 1869-1873. It's exterior is a delight of sculptural and decorative carvings by artists such as De Groot, De Haen, Carrier-Belleuse, Van Rasbourgh and the Jacquet Brothers. It's rumoured that Rodin also completed some sculptures for the building but no documents exist to back up the claim.
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From here, I travelled to Place Sainte-Catherine.
You'll find Francisican ruins...
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the Black Tower...
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and the Eglise Sainte Catherine (Church of Saint Catherine/Sint Katelijne) - a 19th century gothic church
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It's in quite poor condition but is still a wonderfully proportioned structure. Even in it's faded state, it still has its charm.

You can find more photos by following this link: Eglise Sainte Catherine Set


My last stop of the day before returning to the Grote Markt was at the Eglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine/Church of St Mary Magdalene. A 13th century church, also damaged by the French in 1695 and subsequently rebuilt.
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For more photos from today visit the following link: Brussels Set


Tapas Locas
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Perhaps it's the half a litre of Sangria talking but I've just enjoyed some delicious tapas.

Having spent an hour and a half catching the setting suns effect at Grote Markt I felt a little peckish. While walking back to my room, I spied an interesting eatery - the board outside informed the passer by that tapas was €3 a plate - regardless of what you ordered. The only condition was that a minimum of 3 dishes had to be ordered. It sounded fair enough and I filed the information away as I continued on. Pausing to obtain 2 litres of eau - the tap water is okay but I prefer to stick with something reliable.

Discretion being the better part of valour, well, I really didn't want to climb up those stairs of death any more than I had to, I left the water in the kitchen and headed back to find out more about the tapas.

A second condition became apparent as I returned, the place in question only accepted cash, a quick count of the euros, a little mental arithmetic, and presto, I had more than enough

The place is situated at the end of a corridor, it's almost cave like in appearance, dim lighting, a large curved bar to one side, small square tables dot the dining area that is overlooked by an open plan kitchen.

Having managed to ask for a table for one I was seated at the front (or is it the back), giving me a perfect view of the entire restaurant.

The important part - a peruse of the menu. The tapas were divided into three catagories: Tapas Chaud (Hot), Tapas Froid(Cold) and Tapas Desert (you know that one.)

I settled on three dishes: Gambas (prawns) in a garlic butter sauce; Melon Serrano and Pomme Dauphinous. There really was only one thing to drink (for me anyway since I don't drink beer) - so "une mez litre de sangria s'il vous plaiz"

The Pomme Dauphinous was a large dish that came to the table piping hot - the bubbling mix of spiced cream, stock and cheese surrounding the thick slices of soft potato - the crusty cheese top crunching as you cut through it. Bliss.

Melon Serrano was 3 thick slices of ripe cantalope wrapped in Serrano ham - the melon refreshing, the ham soft and succulent.

Five crispy-skinned prawns bathed in a simple sauce of butter and garlic - the crusty sourdough bread accompanying the meal was perfect for dipping into this morish sauce. Paalo will be pleased to know I consumed the prawns, shell and all!

The only problem with the sangria is that it was way too easy to drink and I should have ordered the full litre.

It's certainly a place I'll be returning to.

You can find Tapas Locas at 74 Rue du Marché au Charbon

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